Friday was a good day in my creative writing class. Earlier in the week it had become apparent that everybody was feeling the stress and time crunch I referenced in a recent post. The bounce had gone out of our collective step. So we went to the library. We went to the library but not to look at books. Our campus has recently sprouted gallery space for the visual arts within our new library. It's a small area, a set of cases on the first floor, and some wall space on the second floor, but for many of our students, it will be their first opportunity to look at art up close and personal, in the flesh, so to speak. For example, we are currently hosting an exhibit owned by the Arkansas Arts Council.
So, I did what my undergraduate teacher did (albeit in a much larger gallery space). I invited the students to mill about and absorb the art. Then, I asked them to pick a piece that they felt strongly about. Only after they picked a piece of art did I give them the prompt: write a poem or story inspired by this piece of art. I emphasized the inspiration part rather that a summary of what the piece looked like.
For 25 minutes hardly anyone's pen stopped moving. There was an aura of concentrated energy in the space. Once I noticed people running out of gas, I asked for any brave volunteers to read from these very rough drafts. We gathered around each "featured" piece of art. Then, five students read out loud in a public place, and for first drafts, several knocked me back a step or two. Most of the students left with a smile, and one even stopped me outside later that day to tell me she wanted to go back and write about some of the other pieces.
Sometimes it's the little victories that help the most.