Wednesday, April 25, 2007

For some reason this morning I found myself thinking of one of my first art students, Leon Douglas, age 9. At the time (1972) I was working in a children's center in Memphis Tennessee as alternative service for the draft. Porter Leath Children's Center was a former orphanage converted to a social service non-profit serving families with emotionally disturbed and at-risk children. My first job with Porter Leath was the director of their summer arts and crafts program.

I remember sitting with my students at a grassy area at the intersection of Manassas and Jackson amidst the kinds of broken bottle debris that can infect nearly every poor community in the U.S.

While some of my students were drawing mothers, children, cars and trees, Leon was working intently with dark colors in broad strokes filling the page from side to side, top to bottom and every angle between. I asked him what he was drawing and he surprised me with the mastery of his work. "Can't you see? It's the Viet Nam War!"

At this point, Leon is no doubt grown with children and grand-children. The United States is in another war with images on television filling the minds of his children. They have hand-held devices that they can use to play along with the violence. Is this something we need to reconsider? Personally, I prefer crayons. And personally, I would prefer a more thoughtful and responsible nation.

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