Cloverdale Comments March 2012
The Art of Teaching
Renowned Columbia University professor and poet, the late Mark Van Doren, once observed that: “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”
Among all the subjects we can study, from cosmology to psychology, art is one of the very few which can provide us our own unique path to a lifetime of discoveries, whether of the wonder and beauty of the universe or of our inner-most self.
Van Doren would have liked Cloverdale High School (CHS) science and art teacher Ralph Duell as much as I do because to meet him is to recall every great teacher who helped change your life for the better. But Van Doren would be shocked by the funding challenges preventing what his generation considered a basic education and by all the other barriers a dedicated teacher, along with the students of whom he is so proud, must overcome every school day.
But I’m ahead of the story. After Ralph’s high school guidance counselor discouraged his early interest in art, he studied science and math. During a 50 year teaching career in America and Europe, Ralph matched his M.A. in Composite Science with one in Art so that, in addition to Chemistry and Biology, he’s been able to teach that subject at CHS for the last three years.
Even though he teaches three Art classes, there is no money for it. None! Because of that students must opt in to a class and every single dollar or supply (colored pencils, paints, mats, frames, exhibt/display spaces, etc.) must be donated by Ralph, fellow teachers, students, parents, adult artists or others.
Somehow, with only these precious contributions plus Ralph’s determination and his students’ willingness to try what they may never have attempted before, an inspiring success is being realized all around town for CHS’s artists (“Go Eagles!”)
You can see it happening on the first floor L’Annexe of Towers Gallery, 240 No. Cloverdale Blvd., where 85 works by Juniors and Seniors are professionally displayed thanks to the owners’ generosity. Public reaction is strongly positive and, last I checked, 15 pieces there had sold within a month. A truly encouraging accomplishment for the teenagers and their teacher!
A few weeks ago, Roz and I spent a joyful happy hour with Ralph learning about the rest of over 200 works exhibited along the downtown to grace the walls of: Exchange Bank (whose Branch Manager, Patti Mannett, first suggested a student art display); the long hall in the Performing Arts Center and the Cloverdale Center for the Arts gallery. Last month more than 65 were displayed at the annual Citrus Fair.
Entranced. Amused. Surprised. Moved. Wherever seen, each student’s work touches some part of the viewer’s mind and heart. Thus, all their small drawings and paintings are worthy of display while more than a few show a natural talent enhanced by the artist’s insightfulness, energy, style and/or unexpected maturity.
You don’t have to fit some ready-made mold to take Ralph’s classes or to have your work displayed. One artist takes Special Ed. while another, I was delighted to hear, told him she’d never attempted anything like this before; but he encouraged her and now she’s discovered she “can do anything!”
To donate, Ralph advises “drop-offs” in his name at the CHS office (894-1900).
Samples From A “March Of Arts”
If you’re lucky, there’s a seat left for a performance of the 1st show in our beautiful new theatre’s 2nd season of hits: Nöel Coward’s deliciously dishy comedy of manners, Private Lives. $15 for Adults; 3/2 &3, 8 p.m.; 3/4, 2 p.m. Upcoming shows (through 12/2012): Bullshot Crummond; Death Trap; Our Town; How the Other Half Lives and, of course, A Christmas Carol. 707-894-2214 or www.cloverdaleperformingarts.com
3/7 & 3/21 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., it’s the popular “Discovering Art Series” titled “How To Appreciate Great Art” at the Cloverdale Center For the Arts, 105 E. First St. “Either evening features two sessions via DVD…by a prominent art historian…” followed by a short, informal discussion. Seating very limited. Contact 707-894-4410 or www.cloverdaleartsalliance.org ($3 for CAA mbrs.; $5 non-mbrs.) Ask about the “Real Flicks” series and “Jazz Club”, too!