ArtFul Living

St. Louis Area Fine Arts, Crafts & Performing Arts
Michelle “Mike” Ochonicky, Arts Editor

We’re All Still Kids In The Summer

Every month I love to write this ARTful Living column. I dig through mountains of information to bring you insights into the arts in our area. But, when it warmed up today, I realized that it’s truly summer in St. Louis…and that changes things.

For over 20 years, it’s been my privilege to teach summer art enrichment classes. I spend most days, from June into August, teaching art classes for various school districts, arts councils and St. Louis Community College, to students of all ages from primary grades to adult.

It’s a job I don’t take lightly. I consider it a privilege because I never know which of my petite students might be a Picasso, Michelangelo, Cassat or Shakespeare in the making. With that possibility in mind, what a privilege it may be to actually work with one of these some-day-greats!

Furthermore, I consider it my duty to teach another generation what I know about the arts. It was directly because of an artist’s visit to my school that I pursued a career in the arts. It’s a career that has led me around the globe, with incredible experiences — and I owe it all to the encouragement provided by that artist. Living the dream! So, I think it’s important to “pay it forward” by encouraging the next generation of artists.

However, this isn’t a one-sided experience. I gain so much from my students. They inspire me to view things with new eyes, giving my own artwork a freshness that I couldn’t gain anywhere else. Young artists, especially, have an enthusiasm that can’t be bottled. They see joy. They’re never afraid to try new things. They are willing to experiment and not worry that things may not be judged “good.” Have you ever noticed that all 5-year olds will claim to be artists or dancers, but adults will seldom admit to a penchant for the arts? Why? Just something to ponder…

I find that most of my young students approach everything with the attitude of “What if… ? Why not… ?” It’s an inspiring, exciting approach to art — and to life.

I encourage you to approach this summer with the eyes of a child: experience something new; try your hand at an artistic endeavor and don’t worry about whether it’s “good” or not. As the sports-giant Nike once advised us: Just do it!

We’ve got a brand-new St. Louis Art Museum to explore. Enjoy it! Don’t go there with your “I’m sophisticated” attitude. Instead, visit with the eyes of a child: Be excited. Be surprised. Be awed.

On July 10, enjoy Parties in the Park in Clayton. It’s free; the live music is good. Invite some friends and enjoy how art can enrich your life. While you’re there, pop over to Northwest Coffee & Roasting Company, 4510 Maryland, to view the exhibit of Michael Bolton and Joanna Hoge’s work, “Fresh Paint & Ink.”

When is the last time you attended an opera? Or, have you ever attended an opera? Union Avenue Opera presents the classic “Madame Butterfly” on July 12-13 and 19-20. Try it — you’ll like it! Open up; try new things.

Take in an outdoor concert or attend the Muny. Relax and soak it in. That’s what summer art is all about: the new experience, the enrichment of life.

As long as we’re discussing childlike artistic enthusiasm, I want to tip you off to Joe Mohr’s new book of JoeM’s poems entitled Robots + Bike = Kitten. Let me explain: I never review books — never.it’s my rule. When I received the info about this book, I’ll admit I put it into a folder and planned to forget about it. But rules are meant to be broken and, when I read a few of Joe’s poems, I found an innocence and yet insightfulness that was touching. Although geared for children. Robots+Bike=Kitten is right on track for any age. From Treehouse Publishing, Joe Mohr’s poems are a collection of verse and art… and I like ‘em! You will, too.

Unleash your inner child this summer. Art makes life better, so open up to art: dance, paint a picture, write a poem. Catch a firefly; eat a popsicle. Experience something new, and don’t worry if it’s “good” or not. Just do it.