Friday, September 2, 2016

The Only Way to Get to Brilliance is through Mediocrity

It's an age old fight between teacher and student... 

To push through mediocrity to get to brilliance.

The Berggruen Klee Collection, 1987
As a fine arts teacher, I am probably more aware of this constant struggle than the typical teacher of core content. To be honest, while teaching Economics, I was not concerned with pushing my students to forge their own path and to become the next great economist.  My interest was getting the students to pass the mandated tests, get their credit and to graduate. While not a noble goal, it was a necessary one.

However, the fine arts require teachers to strive for the noble goals. 

Being a mediocre artist, musician, singer, dancer or performer isn't enough. Being mediocre won't get you a college scholarship, a first place or even a job in the chosen field. The world is full of mediocre artists that failed to fulfill their potential who are now using their skills and talents in other career paths. And thank goodness for that, cause without creative, collaborative, out-of-the-box thinkers in all careers, we would be IN TROUBLE!! But that's a post for a different day...

by Zhang Xiaogang
Anyway, over the last week or so, I have had a number of conversations with students about the type of art they love creating.  If you know any emerging artists 22 years of age and younger, you can guess what is said.. 

I have to force myself to not roll my eyes. 

And since it's a new school year I have a whole new crop of art students. In fact, I have double the number of art 2 students than I have ever had. My classes are maxed out and twice during the day I run concurrent advanced classes while also teaching art 2.

With over 50 students that have chosen art to be their path to graduation via the state "endorsement" track, I am daily fighting with my Art 2-4 students to push past mediocrity and find their own brilliance.

And that's not an easy task.

But I use myself as an example. I don't hide my mediocrity from my students. Here is what I have learned about myself. These lessons were not easy and I don't list them now flippantly!

1. I am a mediocre actress.

I was cast as Juliet in college.  It wasn't due to talent or passion.. I fit the dress. This was probably one of the hardest lessons to learn. I LOVE theatre. I have two degrees in theatre... but this has not made me a brilliant actress. 

What I am brilliant at in theatre is Managing. I am hands-down one of the best stage or house managers around.  I learned that my gifts could be used and honed in this part of the theatre.

2.  I am a mediocre artist.

I love the visual arts. The enduring memories of my childhood revolve around the world of commercial art. I love to dabble in all art forms. 

I can mimic the best painters. 
I can copy to coolest contemporary artists. 

But that does not make me a brilliant painter or artist.

I love printmaking. I'll even say that I am good at printmaking.. but not brilliant.

But I am brilliant at motivating people to work hard
 and to manage their fear.

Everyday I work with students and push them beyond their comfort zone to do bigger and better work than they thought possible.

It's a fight. Every. Single. Day.

Mediocrity doesn't want to be replaced with the unknown.

Mediocrity likes being in charge. 

Mediocrity strives for the status quo.

But the only way to get to Brilliance is through Mediocrity.

Mediocrity isn't a bad thing. In fact, I believe it is a good and healthy thing.. as long as that is not the destination. For when Mediocrity is achieved, Brilliance is possible.

So welcome to that place that comes after mediocrity... it's gonna be an interesting journey.

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