Recently, Lynn Stanley, Curator of Education at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, was named Arts Educator of the Year by the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod. Following are her remarks upon receiving the award.
Picture it: I am five and drawing a picture in my kindergarten class. Lacking the color pink, I put a layer of red crayon down, then find a piece of white chalk and apply that on top. As it turns out, I’ve taken Miss Roger’s chalk. Worse, the red crayon has stained the chalk. I’m afraid that if she finds out, I’ll be in big trouble. Instead, when she sees what I’ve done, she is delighted that I know how to mix colors. Thus I become aware that I know something that not everyone else knows—and instead of punishment I’ve been seen and understood.
When considering the roles that art and education have played in my own life, what comes to mind is this 50-year-old memory—one of the first I can associate with being valued in the world as a creative being. I could say that it is because I work with children, teens, and young adults as an administrator and teacher at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum that the connection to that 5-year-old me continues to be alive and present in me today. But really, I think it’s the other way around—that feeling of being valued as a creative young person is at the foundation of my life as an educator. I doubt that Miss Rogers knew the importance of her actions that day.
Fast forward ten years. I’m 15 and as a teenager I’ve experienced things I can’t yet put language to. Instead, I engage in all kinds of risky behavior—I skip school, take drugs, hitchhike, and run away from home. As my grades take a nosedive and my parents struggle to understand what has become of their once comprehensible daughter, art remains a place where I can make meaning, find meaning, and be valued. Art has become a way of being and a lifeline for me.
I don’t know what the fifteen year old I was would think if she could see your recognition of my efforts today. But I can guess that there would be a few school officials—the administrators who hauled me into the office for any number of offences or sentenced me to what we called the “rubber room” during school suspensions, and the teachers who tried to reach me and failed—yes, I’m guessing there would be a few who would be shocked that I survived my youth and have actually joined their ranks.
So I stand here before you today as a reminder to every hard-working educator and arts administrator that you can not possibly know all the good you do or the changes you enact in the lives of the young people you work with. Some of your work will not bear fruit for many years. But I’m living proof that your efforts—along with the love and compassion that fuels them—bring about change that is real and infinitely good.
Twelve years ago I joined the staff of PAAM. Some of you have heard me say that when I started working on out-of-school youth programs I had no idea what I was doing. This is not false modesty. However, what I lacked in knowledge I made up for in the desire to provide a safe, accessible, creative environment for all kinds of kids. I was lucky–very lucky–to find myself in the right place at the right time, among colleagues and leaders who supported my efforts. I thank the very gifted artists who have made PAAM’s programs exemplary. My parents for their love, and for my mother’s example that one never stops learning. My partner Tracey Anderson—whose brilliance illuminates every aspect of my work as an artist, an educator, and a human being. Chris McCarthy for her courage and her far-reaching vision—thanks to you we have a beautiful museum and museum school that youth can grow and flourish in—may it continue for another 100 years. I thank the Massachusetts Cultural Council—I doubt that PAAM’s youth programs would have gotten off the ground without the support I received from the MCC—and I’m not just talking about financial support—every step of the way. I want to thank anyone and everyone who has ever given a cent to support arts education—your money is well spent and an investment in the best of all possible worlds. Representative Sarah Peake and Senator Dan Wolf for their commitment to the arts. Kevin Howard and the staff of the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod.
Finally I want to thank the young people in our lives who take the biggest risks, the most courageous risks, when they forge into the unknown and make something new.
Work from PAAM’s ArtReach program will be on view in Doric Hall at the Massachusetts State House May 12-16. Join Lynn, the young artists, and others for a reception May 14, 3:30-5:00 PM to help advance Collective Action for Youth: An Agenda for Progress Through Creative Youth Development – a dynamic new policy agenda created during the recent National Summit on Creative Youth Development.