Knowing –Art of Learning

Art of Learning

A Conversation with Roberta Hancock

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Roberta was one of the first artists I met in Arizona and what impressed me about her was her affirmative and knowing way of speaking. “Do you know so and so, have you met them, well then we have to get you to meet them, this is what we are going to do”. Spoken in a rapid fire manor that is reminiscent of Katz’s Deli , “you’ll have the Brisket, it will be good for you, you’ll enjoy”. Another great thing about Roberta is that whenever possible, her kids are always with her and welcomed.

At the end of a Perfect day (c) 2003 R. Hancock

At the end of a Perfect day (c) 2003 R. Hancock

As an Artist Activist, Artist and Mom, do you feel that your kids have gotten a balanced school curriculum, one that has them participate in creative arts programs as well as academics?

What an interesting and ironic question! Yes, but primarily because we have personally ensured that for our children. Do I believe their classmates share that experience? No. Unfortunately, Arizona offers substandard education and cultural programming in the primary grades. I only wish we could somehow rapidly inspire our legislative leadership to understand the need to adequately fund education, thereby insuring a quality future for all of us. I deeply respect the educators I have come to know because most are unbelievably dedicated and creative in imparting their skills and knowledge despite underwhelming political and financial support.

I have personally never worried about the level of artistic interaction my children have experienced. The most challenging thing for us has been maintaining the breadth of those experiences and not being tunnel-visioned on [my own area of interest] the visual arts. Both of my children are incredibly creative, however, I think they have been exposed to so much(artistically and civically) that they do not yet know how different they are!

Why do you think it is that with the use of case studies and research data that indicate arts education is a important and critical contributor to a young persons growth, that both the Feds and local governments seem to ignore this.

There are a variety of very weak excuses for this, but I believe the primary reason comes down to the homogenization of our educational and subsequent cultural experiences. It is difficult to be enthused about that which you are not familiar or experienced with. We have witnessed a quiet cultural decline (in our country, but not limited to), dating back at least three generations, from when the Arts were intrinsically woven through the educational experience of the intellectual community and were equally used as a means of cultural preservation through folk experience in the general populous.

In America, our efforts to give everyone the same level of elementary education have actually created a unique homogeneous climate. Cultural differences, traditions and practices (the roots of artistic expression) have been slowly eliminated to encompass only the most common of community experiences. Interestingly, following the Arts in their slow disappearance from our schools’ curriculum’s, Sports and Physical Education are likewise being relegated to after-school care providers to institute.

It is not missed, even on the youngest child, that these after-school activities, albeit entertaining, are not considered as important as what occupies the greatest amount of their time during the day. Joy is being left outside the door of our educational system and I am gravely concerned by the consequences of this short-sightedness.

The last couple of years has seen a lot of enthusiasm about the growing Phoenix art district. With the economy hitting a wall, are you still hearing the same enthusiasm as in 2006.

I am certain that no one, in any business, is enthusiastic about our current economic climate. I believe we can safely predict that we will see a pause in the Arts District enthusiasm, however, it will ultimately recover as the economy does.

In addition to funding, what else does this art’s community need.

Maturity and responsibility. Part of the underlying dysfunction of our own arts community is our response to the community, as a larger whole, which still does not perceive the Arts as an integral part of its health and vitality. Changing that perception requires patience, commitment and taking responsibility for how we behave, both as artists and community members.

Atomic-martini (c) R. Hancock

We have an Election coming up and neither one of the candidates seem to be talking education. Do you find this odd and what do you think we need to do in order to have this be a focal point during their campaigning.

No, I don’t find it odd – disappointing perhaps – but with issues like our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; continued Middle Eastern tensions; our failing health care system and our current economic decline, I believe most Americans are overwhelmed with issues deemed larger than educational concerns.

Whether we can engage the presidential candidates in a national discussion on education or not, we should definitely take this opportunity to send a clear message to our local representatives that we insist on higher standards of education for our children. Governor Napolitano campaigned with education as one of her highest priorities. I have been both impressed by the dogged follow-through of her promises, and dismayed by the lack of support from the State Legislature. If we want to see change nationally – we need to start locally.

Do you have any exhibits planned, if so is their a theme.

I’m afraid I don’t have any upcoming exhibits planned yet! I took some time off from my career(s) to support my youngest child through a very difficult educational time. Now that he has successfully regained his confidence and independence, I am looking forward to returning to my studio and catching up on all the beautiful sights, smells and tactile sensations from producing art. I hope to be back in circulation in a year or so. Look for my art again sometime toward 2010!


Written by Bob Martin

July 29, 2008 at 8:01 pm

Posted in Art, Artists, Painting, Teaching

Tagged with , , ,

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