Sunday, June 7, 2015

Adventures with Art

One spring while with a group of antsy sixth graders in our old dilapidated prefab "Library" at McCandless School, the intruder alert alarm sounded.  Even when I knew we'd have a drill sometime during the day, the moment the alarm sounded it hit me in the gut like a baseball not caught.  The normally talkative wisecracking kids were suddenly silent and still.  

Cindi, my level headed assistant left her desk, checked to make sure the doors were pulled shut (we knew they were locked as long as they were tightly closed), and came back to the area where the kids and I were standing. Then I smiled at the kids and walked them between the stacks of books and away from doors and windows.  There we sat in a very warm sweaty prefab waiting out the situation.

Luckily, I sat within reach of a world of stories and ways to escape the present.  As only a librarian might describe it, I pulled a small book from the 700's, the arts, because I knew we'd only be there a few minutes and why not tease them with places in this world to visit someday, like MoMA, the

Museum of Modern Art.   Seen Art by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith, is a humorous  picture book tour of the MOMA.  The sixth graders were enthralled.  Scieszka has a way of stealing our interest in his verse.

The story begins--It all started when I told my friend Art I would meet him on the corner of Fifth and Fifty-third. I didn't see him.  So I asked a lady walking up the avenue, "Have you seen Art?"  
"MoMA?" asked the lady.
"Uh... o, he's just a friend."
"Just down Fifty-third street here.  In that beautiful new building.  You can't miss it."
She was right.  It was a brand-new building.  I couldn't miss it. .....
"How do you like our new look?" asked the lady just inside.
"Nice," I said, "I'm here for Art."
She smiled and nodded.  
"MoMA," I added.
"Right this way," she said.  And she took me up the stairs.

In his search for Art, he admired and questioned the works of Van Gogh, Warhol, Matisse, Miro, Picasso, and more. When he stood before Dali's Persistence of Memory he said,
"What's with the ants attacking the gold watch? And time is messed up here, too.  But where is Art?"
"You said it, brother."  A painter put his arm around me.  "Is it trying to capture dreams?  Or is it making images everyone can recognized? Look at those shapes.  Are they letters of the alphabet? Are they something more?"
"I guess they could be both," I said...But I"m just looking for Art."

The students and I stopped from time to time to discuss and pull out other books on art and artist. Picture book biographies can be works of art themselves, such as, Picasso and the Girl with the Ponytail, Henri's Scissors, Degas and the Little Dancer, or Through Georgia's Eyes

Cindi and I began to notice that perhaps time had stopped. No one came to the door to give us the all clear. The coloring began to drain from our faces as we thought the worst.  But Art was on our minds.  For nearly 45 minutes through whispers we studied art respectfully in awe of what there is to behold in the world.   Now we had more books spread out in the rows between the stacks than we had children.  Thanks to Art no one even suggested the worst or a call for help.

At last the police and the principals knocked at our door. Since they didn't properly tell me what I needed to hear in order to open the door, we sat quietly like ghost in the snow. With a final knocking I heard the all clear words. Clouded in doubt I crept to the door.  I could see in the eyes of the children a restless fear, but an urgency to know if we were safe.  Safe we were, relieved and reassured.  With the behavior of angels the students lined up and left the prefab for the main building thanking us for the time spent.

Cindi and I stepped outside to feel the fresh air on our skin. Smiles crossed our faces with relief and new insights to children. We learned that in less than one hour a group of antsy sixth graders did indeed find Art that day.


  1. Art serves us in so many ways. Thank you for sharing this story.

  2. Well done--I enjoyed reading this! ss

  3. I love it, Letty. Lit held the scary stuff at bay!! mob

  4. Scary times with all of those little ones. nv

  5. I'm in Amsterdam and headed to Provence and have found Art. (August 2015. WBO class of 65)