The guys took a lot of risks, building relatively large pieces and things with quite a bit of detail. It was fantastic! And their response was overwhelming. They wanted more classes and more creative experiences . . .
I mean, I teach art every day. But within giant, fast-paced schools, art doesn't get the notice it is well-deserved. Students can still love it and be affected by it. Sure. But in smaller, more intimate environments, lifelong connections can be made. And more times than not, clay can facilitate that connection. Maybe it's because of the transformation that happens: the change within mirrors the transformation of the clay from mud to object.
One of the first books I read in my Community Arts graduate program was called Make The Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland. Mr. Strickland founded the Manchester Craftsman's Guild in Pittsburgh, an innovative nonprofit that uses the arts to inspire and mentor inner-city teenagers. About clay, he said this: "I was a young kid just about flunking out of school. And one afternoon I happened to walk past the ceramics studio. I glanced inside and here was this man throwing pots. Frank Ross. Now, I don't know how many of you have ever seen a ceramics wheel turning, but if you have, you know it's magic. It was like a big invisible hand lifted me up and carried me over to that wheel."
More recently I came across a link on the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Art's (NCECA) Facebook page. It was an image of a pottery wheel with the words, "this machine kills hate" scrawled on the front of it. I had to know more . . . Upon further research, I found Roberto Lugo. Below is his Emerging Artist talk published on March 30th of this year. It's completely filled with emotion, and rightfully so.
Superman. Power. Building strength through making. It's a relationship, right? Connection as relationship. I found this video on Baltimore Clayworks' website. "Spiritual" comes up several times in the video. I think that says a lot . . .
I don't know if the students I taught at The Singapore Boys' Home will ever work with clay again. From their playful banter and excited conversations during our time together, I can tell you that something was happening. Was it a lifelong change taking place? Perhaps not. But for that brief moment in time, there was magic.