This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, May 8, 1991

May 8, 1991 - Art show

In my last year of high school, I had one of the best teachers of my life. His name was Mr. Misunas, a squat, zestful, baldheaded man who sported a snow white mustache and goatee.

He taught Art History, and every Monday started exactly the same way. As we opened up our notebooks, he stood before the class and said, "Please write a 200-250 word essay entitled, `What is Art?' Begin."

Every week, he gave us the same assignment. And every week, partly because we couldn't remember exactly what we had thought Art was the previous week, and partly because we had learned some new slants on Art since then, we wrote something different.
After we finished our essays, Mr. Misunas collected them. As far as I remember, he never once commented on them, although I do remember him reading them. At the end of the year, he gave them all back to us -- a record, in our own words, of what we had learned.

Naturally, all this was baffling to begin with. But I got to enjoy the exercise. Every week, I relished the opportunity to NAIL the definition of Art. Every week I was not entirely satisfied that I'd done it.

Without ever being too overt about it, Mr. Misunas communicated to us that not only was Art a pretty slippery thing, even your own thinking about it was in constant evolution.

The only definition of Art I can still remember having written is this: "Art is what Artists do."

For the past couple of days, I've been browing among the 600 or so individual pieces of art now on display at the Philip S. Miller Library in Castle Rock. The art is the work of the students of the Douglas County School District (K-12).

It's remarkable. The work by elementary students is far, far better than anything I can do yet -- although maybe that's faint praise. I mean to say that these children really SEE what they're painting, or drawing, or making from oddly colored and shaped bits of paper or clay or yarn.

The work of the older students is sometimes so breathtakingly competent that you'd think they'd been commercial artists for half a lifetime.

Some of the art is funny; some, grotesque. Other pieces are whimsical, or serious, or make a statement, or exist on their own terms exclusively.

The reception at the opening of the exhibit was held on May 2, 1991 -- a year and a day after we hosted it the last time. A year ago, the exhibit was a big success.

This year, it was an even bigger success (at least judging by the number of cookies eaten).

When you have a big community event that's successful two years in a row, you have more than just a big community event. You have a tradition.

I commend the school district, the Douglas County Council for the Arts and Humanities, and the many dedicated volunteers who all helped put the exhibit together.

It's a pleasure to be involved in joint ventures among cultural institutions, particularly when the sole purpose is to highlight the astonishing talent and creativity of our young people. The DCCAH, incidentally, will be purchasing a piece of art for each elementary and middle school from this exhibit; the individual PTOs will then frame the pieces and start permanent art collections.

I still can't say what Art is, not really. But it's good to know that we have a lot of local young Artists doing it.

The exhibits ends on Sunday, May 12.

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