Seeking is Part of Living
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Courtesy of the SullivanMunce
For as long as art has been created by humans, there has been a sharing of ideas, emotions, interests and stories. Through art, we are able to explore ourselves and share our experiences, which helps to build communities through our understanding and empathy for one another. Zionsville resident Stephanie Crowell is an art teacher who has lived in many places throughout the country. While she has seen and experienced a myriad of things throughout her career, she has found one truth that is unwavering: humans must seek as a part of living.
As a teacher, Crowell has seen the effects of funding cuts and the diminishing art and music departments affecting our nation’s schools, including Indiana schools. She currently teaches K-6 at Phalen Leadership Academy, a public charter school in Indianapolis. Crowell also teaches summer art camps at SullivanMunce Cultural Center in Zionsville. She taught a couple Passport Series classes at the center this past summer. Kids were exposed to a variety of cultures and art projects that focused on different countries and time periods.
“I love teaching summer camps there [SullivanMunce],” Crowell said. “My husband and I moved to Zionsville last year, and we live less than a block from the center. It is a wonderful art center, and Cynthia [Young] is great.”
Crowell emphasized that while STEM subjects are obviously important to a child’s education as are reading and writing at proficient levels, she pointed out that the historical and environmental influences of art and music are an integral part of one’s humanity.
There are numerous ways to teach multiculturism in and out of a classroom. As a teacher, Crowell feels that in order for her to have a conversation about art, she must first teach students the proper vocabulary.
“I decided to teach the seven elements of art: shape, color, line, form, texture, space and value,” she explained. “I can’t say, ‘Look at your shirt. Tell me what elements of art on going on here and talk about the lines and shapes’ if we don’t have a shared vocabulary.”
Since most school districts do not have an “art liaison” developing curriculum for the art teachers, Crowell explained that in many cases, the individual art teachers have the freedom to structure their classrooms as they see fit.
“I decided to teach the seven elements of art and introduce the principles of design in my classes, but it is almost impossible to fit all of those in your teaching unless you have a purposeful framework to work with. I would ask teachers, ‘How often do you reference Google Maps in your classroom?’ Google Maps is one resource to help teach the scope of the world. Not knowing the scope of our world and not having some understanding of what is going on around our world causes us to lose our sense of compassion and empathy. Without that knowledge, we lose everything that makes us human, that drives us to make this world better.”
While dedicated teachers like Crowell work diligently and creatively on shoestring budgets to bring art history and the elements of art back into the classrooms, there are ways to immerse your children outside of the classroom and many that are within close proximity of your home. No need to update the passports for these adventures. You can bring multiculturism into your lives without leaving the state.
“We, as humans, learn through a seeking system,” she said. “We seek to feel pleasure. We seek to understand our world. We seek for survival. For instance, food, because if we don’t seek it, we will die. We are seekers, and we are naturally curious. We need to encourage our kids to be seekers and be comfortable with being curious.”
Crowell’s recommendations for ways to explore and seek:
-Explore the SullivanMunce Cultural Center and all of its programs and services for people of all ages.
-Go to as many museums as you can. Indiana has several incredible art and cultural museums and exhibits.
-Try a new restaurant once a month or as often as you can.
-Attend musicals, dance performances and plays to learn more about the arts, different styles of dance and different genres of music.
-Visit a library and research a country that you have never visited or one that you are not familiar with but would like to learn more about.
-Attend festivals. Many are free or low-cost and offer a full cultural immersion with performances, food and art.
-Learn a new language as a family. There are many different kinds of software and programs for learning languages that are easy to download and are affordable.
“When visiting museums, let the kids explore whatever art forms they are attracted to and encourage them to make a list of things that they thought were cool. Go home and learn more about them together from the Internet,” Crowell suggested. “It’s a great opportunity for you to learn new things together. And when eating at a new restaurant, look at the menu beforehand, if possible, and discuss the kinds of food that are listed and how you eat them.”
Crowell concluded, “Don’t be afraid to come up with conversation prompts ahead of attending a festival. Encourage your children to ask a person who looks different or speaks with an accent to share with them about where they come from and what they love about their country or are most proud of. You can explain to the person that you and your family are trying to learn more about different cultures to start the conversation. Think of yourselves as ambassadors of our own country and as someone who is helping to bridge a connection and is encouraging our children to continue to seek beyond the classroom and learn something new.”