By Kristin Hoerth
Two weekends ago, at the annual Art Feast event in Santa Fe, collectors and gallerists and artists gathered at the posh La Posada Hotel for an elaborate evening. Valet parking was offered. The ballroom was sparkling, and large landscapes painted by Matthew Higginbotham (one of our featured artists this month) graced the walls. During the cocktail hour, waiters circulated offering champagne and hors d’oeuvres. At dinner, each course was conceived by one of Santa Fe’s star chefs and expertly paired with the appropriate wine selection. Everyone was festively dressed, and the room buzzed with laughter and energy.
In the midst of the glitz, though, was the non-glitzy reason for the entire evening: The centerpiece at each table was not fancy flowers or glittering candles, but rather a trio of easels holding three 12-by-12-inch unframed paintings. They had been created by local high school students under the direction of distinguished New Mexico artist Fran Larsen, the event’s Honored Artist this year (and one of our Legends artists in last December’s issue). Fran had spent two weeks working with these high schoolers, and before dinner was served, she shared some thoughts about the experience. Many in the room were moved by what she said, and so I offer you some excerpts here:
Teaching art for me is helping people of any age express who they truly are…. I try in teaching to show my belief in their ability to make images that are meaningful to them. My job is to help them remove the blinders of their habitual expectations and trust themselves…. Most often they judge themselves by comparison with their peers rather than looking within themselves at their own special view of the world. My job as a teacher is to help my student artists believe that what they think, that how they see the world, is valid, worthwhile, meaningful, important….
Remember that in this society today, money is the form of approbation. You can tell a kid how much you like what he does, but when you buy his piece, he really believes you. Half of the money you pay tonight for these paintings goes directly to the students who created them. The other half goes to the schools so that there is paint, paper, clay, pencils … all the materials they need to make their own personal artistic statements…. Thank you for helping them.
I bought a brightly colored landscape that now brings a shot of color to my office…and reminds me of the absolute necessity of keeping the arts alive for every generation.