Saturday, August 16, 2008


I took down my “blog break” post because I feel compelled to write after all! In that post, I mentioned trying to slow myself down and take things a few steps at a time. I am tired of trying to be Wonder Woman.
Something happened yesterday that really made me think about trying to do it ALL. This entire week, I have been sitting in various trainings and trying to get my school art room ready. The training workshops run the gamut. Some are informative. Some are as boring as hell. Some are a waste of time. Some are idiotic. Yesterday, I attended an art teacher training. It was quite interesting and fun. It started off with announcements of art department business, district technology resources, and a brief talk given by a retiring art teacher. One thing she said that stuck in my mind was that she believes art educators should be artists too. Of course, I sat up straight in my seat. “I am!” I thought. I turned and looked out into the auditorium. I realized many art teachers do not make their own art. In my opinion, this is OK too. I have learned this from experience. At one time, I was an education coordinator and would hire artists to teach. A person can be the next Michelangelo and not be able to teach someone how to lick a stamp! Likewise, I have known many art teachers who were phenomenal art teachers, but have a hard time drawing a stick figure. So, it all depends.
The next speaker was the brilliant, conceptual artist, Ray Azcuy. He was a former art educator and administrator in our county. He moved to Miami to work in arts administration. He is now retiring to be a full time artist. He too mentioned the importance of being an artist / art educator. However, he also spoke the same thing I thought. Not all artists are teachers or vice versa. He showed images of his work and then answered questions. Some of the questions dealt with the idea of juggling a day job with your artist’s job. He said he would work on his art at night and weekends. He even admitted using his “sick days” to get a little more art time if he had an approaching deadline. When he said this, I looked over at my art supervisor and wondered if that idea made her cringe.
I relate to Ray’s words and his description of the day job “dance”. I am not known as a Type A, all star, art teacher anymore. Sometimes, I feel bad about that. Years ago, I would volunteer all my time to the cause. I took classes and meetings, and gave my life away. My art suffered and I became very unhappy. So I changed the way I do things now. I can’t volunteer to spend my time hanging student exhibitions or be on textbook committees or take trainings all summer. NOPE! I go to work and do a great job while I am on their clock. When the school day is over, MY art time begins. So I have a teacher’s hat and then an artist’s hat. I switch hats at 2:30 every weekday. Nobody can do EVERYTHING. You have to make choices and set priorities. I would love to be a super, duper, Wonder Woman. I am not.

I have to live with the idea I am not Super Teacher or Wonder Woman. This is difficult for me because I always want to be the BEST at what I do. You can be the best, but not at everything. If I have to make a choice, I just want to be known as Sheree who does her BEST at creating her art. That is just fine with me.


gilda said...

Prioritizing is SO very important, isn't it? In my new job I have to go to meetings, do budget, supervise faculty, and teach my classes. I just started getting into the rhythm of this during the summer, so I would be totally prepared when classes start September 2.

Guess what.

I am not prepared! I am overwhelmed! Your post is so enlightening in that it helps me to see how your work framework can be adapted to my situation.

Did I mention art-making in any of this? NOOOOO. But it is there. This months Art Calendar has a good article by Jack White which addresses the "9 to 5" situation that almost all working people, including artists, find themselves in. If they are lucky! One of my jobs now is to get across to young artists that they most likely will not be able to live off the sales of their work, and to face the fact of getting a job.

How many Jeff Koons are there? But I also don't want to burst their young bubbles....what a instructional tightrope to walk. Remember when we were in school?

Anyway, your post, as usual, was right-on-time! And Sheree, the Guggenheim applications are due on the entry fee required.

Anonymous said...

I too wear 2 hats. And you are right about trying to do it all. I am friends with a colleague of yours, Wendy Bruce. She is wonder woman as well. I vow that this year I will stop volunteering unless it's really necessary for life or death or shelter. I will make well executed and unhurried art! even if I have to take 2 sick days in a row!
Cathy with a c

Sheree Rensel said...

I know. I know. I know. There are no easy answers. You are in a different position than I am in right now. I can understand how hard it must be for you because juggling the jobs you are trying to juggle is a big deal. There is some prestige to what you are doing. However, I do understand in a way. Back a few years ago, I was rising to the top of the educator food chain. I was winning all kinds of awards, grants, and a car. I was putting my ALL into this job. I even dabbled with the idea of changing my Ph.D. major to Educational Leadership so I could become an administrator. I was snapped back into reality when I was registering for classes like Educational accounting and School Law. I wanted to slap myself!! I said "Sheree, this is NOT you!" Even though I have the skill sets to do such a job, my happiness would be destroyed. Even the increase in pay didn't seem worth my need to work at a job that was art related. So I understand the frustration. Thanks for the thumbs up. I am so glad you can relate to my simple words of wisdom. :-)

Sheree Rensel said...

First, thank you for reading my blog.

Second, if you continue to read it, you will realize I speak my own truths and I am very candid.

There are a lot of wonder women around. I think this is especially true for a lot of art educators. Wendy and I have talked about this before. With this post, I don't mean to suggest everybody should just work the clock and be done with it. Somebody has to volunteer , I suppose. However, I chose not to because I need to be happy. I am happy being an artist. If I am a happy artist, I am a happy teacher. Therefore, this formula works for me. You do what you have to do too!! :-)

deb said...

wow i really needed to read that post today, odd how the universe says read sheri's blog before you make dinner, and I did and again, wow, what a concept not doing it all!! Glad to hear I am not the only one saying no! Well sometimes I say yes but now only to things I really want to do! keep on posting I enjoy teh peek inside your mind!

Sheree Rensel said...

You got that right!!! I am not saying just "SAY NO!!!". In fact, if it is feasible, I have time, and it is a project that interests me, I will go ahead on. However, if I am trying to do too many things at once or it interferes with my art life, I say "NO THANK YOU" with verve and intensity. It just isn't worth it to me. I don't have to prove anything anymore; I have a very nice resume; I expect payment for work I do. etc. Sounds very logical to me. Am I Right???