One of the advantages to being an art teacher (at least to those of us who are no longer on a cart) is having a space to inspire creativity. I have always relished those first few teacher days before students arrive. It's like looking at a blank canvas. I have a room. I have tables. I have art supplies. And I get to plan it and prep it and paint it the way that I envision.
I have been known to take everything out of the closets and cabinets and put them on the tables of the art room those first couple of days. The first time I met the director of my former school in Ecuador, I was rummaging through boxes of fabric and paints. He looked at me like I was crazy because he had never seen such a mess in a classroom with only two days to go. But I got it done and I knew everything that got placed back on those shelves and exactly where I would find them. It was organized just to my messy liking.
And the walls. Well, artists love to decorate walls. Although, I have to admit I was not the art teacher that had the walls completely covered at the beginning of the year. I liked to leave space for my students. Their work, their imagination, and just space. I did not want the room to feel cluttered. We get enough information thrown at us in the world everyday. I wanted the art classroom to be a space that felt somewhat calm so they could get in a creative zone.
When I bid farewell to my classroom this past June, I remember the uneasy feeling of walking away from something that you put a lot of time and energy into with nothing to show for it. All of that work I had done to create the ideal space for my students was now a blank canvas again, but not for me this time. I removed the posters and the birds that were flying overheard, swept the floors and organized and labeled materials. I want the new art teacher to see their new space as a jackpot.
I filled two truckloads with books and curriculum from my classroom. The boxes were then unloaded in my house, my living room to be exact. They daunted me for at least 2 weeks in the middle of the house before I dragged them upstairs to my supposed space. And let me tell you, it was NOT a blank canvas or a jackpot. My new space was a mess. Over the past 4 years, since moving into our new home, it has become a place for me to stack, store, throw, and cram. There has always been hope to get this space ready for it's intended art studio purpose. I even read "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" with my book club hoping that I could magically tidy it up. And now I was adding more boxes to this space?! I wedged them in between the sewing machine and bookshelves and gave myself permission to decompress from the school year and try to forget the nagging task that lie ahead.
I really did enjoy those few weeks of lying on the beach, reading a book that was almost 1000 pages long, and traveling with my family. But when vacation was over I knew it was time to get back to work and working is what I did. I filled up two entire recycle bins with nothing but paper. Seriously, why did I feel the need to bring home 20 copies of the same worksheet? Two huge boxes of clothing that I have not worn in probably 10 years sit waiting to be sold at our neighborhood yard sale. Prototyping materials and clay supplies have been organized and moved to the garage, after first enlisting my husband to rid the mice and mouse droppings. I even came to the realization that the really cool over-the-stairs art table that I thought would be ideal for creating is really just a storage space for projects in limbo and I bought myself a desk. It is slowly but surely becoming my space. A space not just for boxes of supplies and books, but also a place for actual creation.
So, I guess I am ready. It won't be easy for me to push this side of myself to the background. I have identified as an art teacher since I was 21 years old, fresh out of college, when I got my first teaching job. As I approach 40, I realize that almost half of my life I have been an art teacher. Even though I have my college degree in fine arts, I have always found it difficult to call myself an artist. I remember in college having a discussion with my favorite professor. "I have a hard time calling myself an artist," I said. "I feel like a fraud." What I am embarking on is a journey to be able to make that claim. I am an artist and I am going to prove it.