Windows and War
Howard Zinn, author of Artists in Times of War, writes, “When I think of the relationship between artists and society… I think of the word “transcendent”… By transcendent, I mean the artist transcends the immediate. Transcends the here and now. Transcends the madness of the world. Transcends terrorism and war. The artists thinks, acts, performs music, and writes outside the framework that society has created” (Zinn 1). It is this transcendent quality that makes so many things, even things not commonly associated with art art. Art is the best way to run away from home, to have a conversation with yourself, to try to make sense of the tragedies that befall our world all too often. Zinn elaborates, by adding: “The trick to acting transcendentally is to think. What questions are the voices of authority not asking?” (Zinn, 7).
Authors of The Muses go to School speak about this transcendence with specific regards to education. They speak about how transcendence has become a nostalgic concept that is no longer present in our tech-and-test-score driven society. Gary Stager writes, “Wherever I go, I am alarmed by the social implications of a generation of American teenagers who have never had a conversation with an adult… they’ve never fixed a car with a neighbor, gone fishing with an uncle, or studied the cello with a musician” (Stager 98). All of these activities that Stager describes are an escape, just as the arts are. Transcendence through escape is just one half of the spectrum, however.
Art can help one to transcend through the ability to predict or react or explain what is happening in our world. There is so much hurt, longing, and trouble here; art is helping us to explain and cope and love despite all of the sadness. Art equips us with a voice to converse about what is happening to us in a deeper manner. Whoopi Goldberg writes, “I think you have a different voice when you have the arts” (Goldberg 127). To elaborate, one can draw from Moises Kaufman’s input: “Art provides an insightful, enlightening discourse and children should be exposed to it. They are able to absorb it, and they need its challenges” (Kaufman 139). Art, and its transcendence, are challenging things, indeed. Art forces us to examine our most intrinsic intricacies: something that is an entirely too uncomfortable necessity. Through this personal examination we can begin to understand why we are the way we are, why we are all troubled and melancholy and want to be loving and loved. Steve Seidel, contributor to The Muses go to School, tells his reader: “Plays help us realize, both through our identification with diverse characters and through our experience of sitting in a theater with a group of people who are also laughing and crying, that perhaps we are not quite so alone in the world” (Seidel 155).
Perhaps transcendence is just what our world needs in order to encourage a better future. What better venue for this encouragement than the classroom? Mike Medavoy writes: “I believe that we should get the broadest education possible. A cumulative education provides building blocks that seem to come together by the time you leave college (Medavoy 166). Colin Greer adds: “When we educate children for life in society, especially a humane democratic one, we must of necessity teach the arts: adding artists and audience” (Greer 173). The problem is that so many children don’t have this kind of all-encompassing, artistically resonant education. Instead, they realize the American education system for the abomination that it is and slip through the cracks before they can even taste a lick of transcendence. Phillip Seymour Hoffman writes, “The minute they think that school’s a drag, that school is where you just come and get through it, where you try to pick up girls, or do drugs, or whatever it is, you’ve lost learning and growing” (Hoffman 111). Deborah Meier goes on to elaborate on this idea: “As a child I foolishly dismissed mathematics as a serious subject for serious people precisely because I thought it a rote, right-answer discipline where creativity didn’t matter” (Meier 115). Transcendence isn’t something that can be learned in the current American education system, and that truth needs immediate remedy. As Maxine Greene writes: “I have to keep alive to the unexpectedness of what I see out the windows. That’s part of what I think the arts can do” (Greene 180). We must begin to cultivate and stimulate a culture that gleans from both the past and present in order to exemplify the truths of the future. We must begin to see out the windows.
My group’s visual statement exemplifies all of what majority of these authors (in The Muses go to School) are trying to articulate: that arts education is seemingly uncharted. It is somethign that we must begin to explroe so that we can set a course for our future as a democratic, imagiantive society.