Forget the NCAA tournament, the Iditarod, and the Academy Awards, it’s Art Season for me. Three art competitions in recent weeks have had me working day and night to prepare my “players” for their chance to shine.

Why do I do it when most of the Arts establishment discourage competition in art? (and other areas)

Art will take them places.

The art establishment discourages competition in art just as educational elites frown upon any kind of competition in schools. Children are not being encouraged to compete or to strive to achieve in many schools in America, unfortunately.

Talent is the great equalizer; I’ve taught in high socio-economic schools as well as the low socio-economic school where I am teaching presently. I much prefer schools in poor neighborhoods. The children aren’t as distracted by ipods, video games and other prizes of the well off. Many of my students are immigrants and appreciate the education that our school is providing. Many, of course, not all, of the students who I taught who came from richer neighborhoods did not have aspirations to achieve.

When life comes easy, achievements are few.

What does the national art educational establishment consider important? Not achievement, nor excellence but social justice.

The theme of the NAEA 2010 National Art Education Convention is: Art Education and Social Justice

The theme of the 2010 Convention, Art Education and Social Justice, is appropriate to our time. The historic election of President Barack Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor reflects our ever shifting demographic. Our nation is truly questioning itself in order to discover and redefine who we are as a nation, what we believe in, and what needs to change.

The White House held a briefing on Art, Community, Social Justice, National Recovery on Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 that was attended by arious representatives of the current administration and more than 60 artists and creative organizers. All gathered were there to not only pledge their support for the arts and community organizing but also to begin a real dialogue on issues of social justice and our nation’s economic and emotional recovery. Joseph Reinstein, Deputy Social Secretary, said, “The administration believes the arts play a critical role beyond art education in saying what a democracy is” (2009, p.5).

It is never a comfortable task to question oneself; there is fear at what we will find. But the arts are used to questioning, probing, and searching. As Maxine Greene writes, “[T]he arts will help disrupt the walls that obscure…spheres of freedom” (1988, p. 133). This year’s Convention seeks to do just that.
–Vanessa Lopez, Roland Park Elementary Middle School, Baltimore, MD
2010 NAEA National Convention Program Coordinator

The National Endowment for the Arts, community organizing and social justice.

Where have I heard this before?

Now I’m back to matting and shrink-wrapping artworks that express students individual and personal thoughts and ideas. No more personal in Obama’s world?


Here are some artworks by my students: