This section of Senior Writing was not originally my first choice, but I’m really glad I ended up taking it. I felt like it pushed me and helped me grow so much more than any other section would have. I’m thankful I was forced to go beyond my comfort zone to research and complete the assignments.
At first, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to write about. The idea of having to pick a subject of a published piece was certainly intimidating. It sent me into a good few weeks of a “fight-or-flight-or-freeze” mentality.
The best advice I got from this course was to “get out of your head.” It pushed me to start making moves for the interview portion of my research. It also served as a great bit of encouragement to get the swarm of ideas in my head organized and out into the world.
Unexpectedly, I ended up researching a subject that I didn’t know much about at the beginning of this course. I began wanting to cover painters/muralists in the Milwaukee. I found myself thinking, “What is the ‘So What?’ of this article? Why does it matter? Why is it important? What do painters have to do with anything?” I began to lose interest in this idea, and I felt lost.
No matter the subject, I already knew I wanted to interview my ex-co-worker, Daniela. She graduated from MIAD as a painter and currently works at Sojourner Peace Center. I started to think about how she affected her community, and how many people might not automatically label her as an artist because she does not fit the ‘starving artist/gallery artist’ stereotype. That sparked an idea in me - why don’t I talk about hidden or ‘illegitimate’ artists? (This actually stemmed from my experience in Glasgow. They legitimize art and artists much more over there than here in America, where artists are often times not taken seriously by people who are not in a creative industry.)
My ‘So What?’ for the ‘hidden artists’ had emerged as an attempt to bring a spotlight to the legitimization of any and all artists (not just stereotypical artists) in the community. I still wasn’t confident in this approach, though.
I decided to keep the interviews pretty open-ended to allow for growth. I first interviewed Daniela, who has worked with the community through many youth arts programs. After this interview, I was really inspired by her passion to teach coping skills and positivity in the form of art to at-risk youth. Thanks to Daniela, I feel like I had a strong direction and an even better ‘So What?’.
This led me to interview my classmate, Alejandro. He had worked with a youth arts organization prior to this course. He also identified as someone who was positively affected by the integration of arts into schools. Being able to interview someone who could share how they coped with their turbulent childhood experiences with art was incredibly valuable.
For my subject, I eventually ended up showcasing the value in youth arts and why they are important, especially to Milwaukee’s at-risk communities.
I made a strong case for why arts should not be cut from schools, and talk about how arts serve as extra support for those who may be struggling with difficult situations or environments. I was able to draw on Daniela’s knowledge and Alejandro’s experiences to help the reader sympathize with people and their experiences that they might not even have known existed otherwise. I was finally confident in my message, or my ‘So What?’: bring attention to the importance of art in education.
I’ve never learned so much from a self-directed research project. My research helped make me aware of a whole different side of the community that I didn’t know much about before. I feel like this experience educated me and helped me become a bit less oblivious to reality. (I call this my ‘reality filter,’ resulting from a privileged, relatively pleasant, and uneventful childhood, as well as my suburban-la-la-land mindset.) It brought me (and hopefully it will bring my readers as well) closer to the reality that many people live every day, and why arts are important for helping them cope with their circumstances, especially from a young age.
I believe because of this course, I’ve grown as a person. I’m glad I got to connect with those in the community. I’m also excited to have an article I wrote published! I think my research is something I can consider as a focus for my thesis project my senior year which I am, once again, currently in a “fight-or-flight-or-freeze” state about… but this course may help change that!