My oldest brother Ted lives in Thailand and is helping create the curriculum for a University there. Ted has always been a forward thinker and when Peter and I were teenagers Ted would play us European Jazz from the ECM label and introduced us to artists like Lou Reed, David Bowie, Keith Jarrett, and Brian Ferry.
When I was 18 Ted gave me a book by a philosopher named John Dewey called “Art As Experience”. John Dewey shaped to a large degree how our world looks at education and art. I could never have dreamed when I received Ted’s gift that it would be something I’d be reopening and discussing with experts at Harvard University years later. But as Jimmy Buffett reminds us, the song-lines of our lives frequently take unexpected turns.
While at the “Meeting of the Minds” convention in Key West this past Fall I ran into Katherine Burton Jones, Director of Museum Studies at Harvard. Many people not familiar with Jimmy Buffett think it’s only partying and irreverent songs, they are not aware of Jimmy’s literary roots, his place in the songwriter’s hall of fame, or the fact that luminaries ranging from Ed Bradley, (RIP), of 60 minutes, to director Frank Marshall, and numerous artistic, sports and media figures, fit into the category of “Parrotheads”. (Buffett fans).
Katherine Jones saw my IM4U Teaching Program for young children and contacted me soon after with an idea to involve me in a workshop and panel discussion at Harvard about bringing Play and Creativity to Museum studies. Of course I said yes and started my preparation.
It turns out that my IM4U Teaching Program, which brings fun music and games to the challenging topic of social-emotional learning, and bullying, is in fact related to a branch of art-philosophy that Doris Sommer has so beautifully presented in her book “The Work of Art in The World”. Many bold artists from around the world in challenging situations including Bogota, Columbia, Albania, Lithuania, and New York City, have used art to transform nearly hopeless situations by asking the question: “What would an artist do?”
While studying John Dewey, Doris Sommer, David Elkind, and other authors for my preparation, I couldn’t help think of the thousands of Parrotheads who “party with a purpose” by combining fun, art and charity work to help their communities. Pretty cool stuff!
We may think of the word “Art” as something highly cultured that sits in a distant museum for awe and viewing. However, as John Dewey points out, art is part of our daily lives, it starts with our experience, and can be as commonplace as a song we love, a dish we cherish, or something we encounter daily. Art is part of the fabric of our lives. Whether we choose to experience it or not, that’s up to us.
We’ll be doing a panel discussion Thursday night (Event Link) with Doris Sommer, myself and Adam Rozan moderating. Adam is the director of engagement at the Worcester Museum in Massachusetts and has done a wonderful job of focusing our dialog. Learn more about Adam here.
I look forward to exploring with the academic maestros at Harvard how we can bring inventive perspectives to Museums and other civic places by putting play and creativity front and center. Let the party begin!