The following interview was conducted on July 11, 2016 by Amanda Barbee, a graduate student in the Department of Art Education at Virginia Commonwealth University. This interview is part of the Virginia Art Education Association Distinguished Fellow’s Legends and Legacies Project, a project intended to preserve the histories of prominent Virginia art educators for posterity.
Amanda Barbee (AB): What led you to the field of Art Education? What was the most important aspect of your career initially? Have you experienced shifts in what is important to you in your career over the years, and if so, how?
Michael Gettings (MG): I graduated in 1983 with a degree in painting and printing from VCU. During my last year in school a buddy became the afternoon DJ at Q94 in Richmond. We became roomies and I got a job at the radio station after college starting as a mascot, (Gorilla). This led to a 13-year career as a disc jockey, traffic reporter, and producer of commercials. Along the way I got married and had 4 children. Around 1994 I decided to find a career that would (in my mind) allow me to make the world a better place. Looking back, I realized that art and teaching both gave me a great deal of satisfaction, and both would help create a better world. So, I enrolled in VCU’s Art Education program, took classes, worked part time in radio, substitute taught and generally worked hard to do the best I could. I graduated with a second BFA in Art Education!
As a side note, I was not a good student prior to this. In high school, I never took art, the guidance folks decided I should follow drafting because I like drawing. Since I drew all the time, my friends convinced me to make art but after graduation (1975), I still did not go to college. I only went because my sister got me the application and made me fill it out. So, you could say that was what drove me to eventually become a teacher. I was still a so-so student in college the first go-round (ODU to VCU). When I got accepted to VCU’s Art Education program, the chair (I think his name was Dan Reeves) said they would take a chance on me. I asked what he meant. He said my GPA was normally too low for acceptance, but if I aced all my classes I could make it to the student teaching level. Talk about incentive! I aced all my classes and barely made it GPA-wise.
The most important aspect of my career when I started out was to be the best teacher I could be. I wanted the kids to learn not only art but ways of thinking and looking at the world – to notice the beauty, the artistry around them, to be able to think critically. My radio background made me want them to be able to be media savvy, know what the influences of the visual world were and how they might shape them. I wanted them all to love art and learning.
As my career has progressed and changed over the years, my primary personal goal has always been to be the best I can be and to help make the world a better place (I know sounds corny!). I think the arts are uniquely suited to teach people critical thinking, creativity and what we now know as the (Hetland’s) studio habits of mind. The arts touch all of us and enable all to understand in one form or another a sense of artistic aesthetics. As I moved into leadership roles, I had to make a shift from the personal student-centered interactions to more global art education and a teacher-centric view. That said, it should always be remembered that the student is at the center of everything we do.
AB: When you consider your younger self, new to the field, what would you change about your experience, and what do you consider to be a great milestone that got you to where you are now? Do you have advice for those entering the field now?
MG: I think I would love to have read more on classroom management. As a newbie elementary art teacher, I used energy, enthusiasm and a bit of showmanship to drive my classes. This is great but if you do not have a firm grasp of limits, the classroom can get a bit unruly. As I matured into that position and then later in teaching high school, I learned much more about the boundaries and how to balance that enthusiasm with a positive classroom environment.
I am not sure of milestones, but I had some amazing mentors. During my secondary placement Paul Llewellyn told me something that I have never forgotten. He said that the first two years were going to be very difficult. Year 3, I would feel like I was getting it down and would feel much more at ease. By years 4 and 5, I would have the experience and knowledge and would really come into my own as a teacher. He said that was when I needed to pay very close attention. Many teachers reach that 5- to 7-year plateau and never change. They coast on what they have done and in which they have been successful. Because of this they become dated. The learning, rigor and relevance lower and their students’ learning will suffer. I’ve kept that admonition in my mind ever since. My elementary mentor (Kimberly Gianopolous) once asked me if I liked what I was doing. I replied, “Yes!” She said, “Then you should smile because it will make you feel better and be a visible signal to your students that you do like it.” From that day on I actually practiced smiling at my classes.
Advice: Be positive. Know your content. Never stop learning; never ever. Keep a reflective journal. Continually self-assess. Do the projects before you teach them! Smile.
AB: What are your favorite accomplishments, accolades, or successes of your career? What specific experiences do you feel have sustained your passion for Art Education?
MG: I had one of my former graphics students come up to me on the street one day and tell me that his college buddies told him he has “mad computer skills”. He said it was because it was how I taught him--how to use and think about the computer as a tool, to look for multiple ways to do things, and how to figure things out. I thought that was pretty cool. He was an English major, by the way.
Working with students and teachers – listening, actively, providing the second set of eyes, allowing them or coaching, is enormously satisfying. I’ve done a lot of stuff and won some awards but none of those hold a candle to those moments when you have helped someone figure something out, calmed them down or just listened because they needed someone to hear them. Of course, those magical “light bulb” moments students have are golden.
I think all that has helped to sustain my passion for art education. That and I believe art is the single most important subject we can teach our children.
AB: What have you learned about yourself over the course of your career? What strengths have you developed? What qualities do you admire in specific colleagues (that you may or may not possess)?
MG: I have learned that I am stubborn, an ENTJ (on the Briggs-Myers Personality Test), can be very organized and like to get things done right away. I have developed some capacity for leadership that I did not know was even possible. What I admire in others is the seemingly positive attitude without a trace of self-doubt. I learned that I have a huge case of the “imposter syndrome”. Being a “get-along” kind of guy, I really appreciate those that can and will say what is on their mind or go directly to the root of an issue or problem. I tend to beat around the bush or present a long “logical” memorandum and/or solution.
AB: Who has impacted you the most in your journey? Who has celebrated and supported your efforts? How has the Virginia Art Education community served you as a member?
MG: Kimberly Gianopolous and Paul Terrell both were very impactful in my early career. There are really hordes of people that coached, guided, pushed and mentored. From VCU, Dave Burton, Jim Wright and Al Landis were huge influences. My first principal, Don Bechtel, was one of the most amazing leaders I have even met. Lin Ferrell was my predecessor. She encouraged me in every move I made. At one point I thought she was trying to get rid of me! But she saw something in me and really pushed me to go beyond what I ever thought possible. Every co-worker has been generous with their time and willingness to teach me along the way. They are the unsung heroes of many a kid’s or teacher’s journey. During my high school teaching I met the most amazing teacher I ever met. I was fortunate to have shared the room with her and during my planning would sit in awe of her teaching and her lessons. She's perhaps the most gifted art teacher I have ever met. I am biased though, because we got married a few years after we met.
The support and celebrations of my efforts have mainly come from my peers. To receive recognition is one thing, to realize that your peers thought that much of you is humbling.
The Virginia Art Education community. We are very fortunate in the state of Virginia to have a strong group of leaders in the Virginia Art Education Association (VAEA). The VAEA hosts one of the best professional development conferences I have ever attended--bar none. The leadership of the board is very proactive. Most people do not realize how strong they are in advocating for the arts. Lin made me go to my first conference and my wife got me involved in the board. The board has had many, many amazing leaders, including Barbara Laws, Pat Franklin (It was a treat and learning experience to watch her run the meetings and organization), Scott Russell, and so many other dedicated folks. They all do this for the love of art education. Remarkable. The VAEA and art education community has served me very well. Because of them I have had opportunities for growth I would not have had otherwise.
Reading over this I have come to realize that many people have seen something in me and gave me chances and encouragement to be better than I thought I could be. This is not to say that I didn’t have a certain amount or drive or a motor. But the combination of all of these people in my life really made me in large part who I am today. I love art, I love education.
AB: I have met Mr. McAdams with Partners in the Arts and I know a little bit about that organization, but I saw all in your CV the you are currently the chair, and I guess I wanted to kick off with asking for a few specifics. Your written responses to my questions gave me several small specific points that I want to pull out into, if that’s okay for the format to go into.
AB: I wanted to ask you about your role in Partners in the Arts: What you find beneficial to it, just sort of what your feel about it as the organization and your role and position in it.
MG: Okay, well, I don’t know if I should go into the background. I actually went to the Partners in the Arts as a student, a decade ago I guess. It literally changed how I taught. I actually wrote a graduate paper for graduate credit that changed how I painted. I’ve been told many times to stop saying this because it sounds very intimidating but it changed my life. So, I had just one of those life-changing experiences from it, and what Partners in the Arts guides, is if you are an artist or an art teacher, you understand the arts and you understand integrating subjects. What they tried to do is give people a way to see creatively outside the box and take this idea of art integration in the other direction. How could the arts inform other subjects? How can I benefit the students questioned how can we do this with not just a mural on the wall, but with long-term professional development? Doing things for the culture of the school. They’ve been very successful at that and now that Brian is the head of the organization, he really brings it up.
AB: That’s wonderful, and how long will you serve as Chair? Is that a rolling position, or, how does that organization work?
MG: It’s kind of, I don’t want to say that it’s an honorary position, but it’s one that you basically get to be on as chair, they asked and I said yes. What do you want me to do? As the chair? So I will start meetings, and I will in the meetings, but really Robin and Amy Williams, they really run the meetings, set the direction of the tone, decide what’s going to happen, and we’re really monitoring and my role. It’s not really anything down pat. I really think the organization is reaching its potential for the metropolitan area. It is supported well at the University of Richmond now, and I encourage everybody to take these classes, or to sign up for one of their grants. I strongly encourage people to apply for those grants!
AB: Well great, that’s good tonight. I know that a lot of the teachers from Binford Middle School went a couple summers ago, and we saw them adding that into the work they were doing in their classrooms. During the school year, they were highly motivated, It seemed to be really excellent work that they’re doing. That’s great to hear that again.
MG: Yeah, and this is a special case because that is an arts integration school that the city has made. That is a very special case, they get a lot of help with the arts, the teachers are supported to make this a success, the enrollment has increased significantly at that school. The new principal is great!
AB: I did also want to ask, and this ties in very well to what you are alluding to with arts integration: I very much identify and agree with art integration, not just to support art but in some cases the way that it serves as subservient subjects to others, but in a way to inform other subjects, that’s exciting to hear other art education people mention! Along with your CV I saw that you are on the Virginia Coalition for Fine Arts Education, specifically regarding STEM to STEAM. Could you tell me a little bit about that?
MG: Yes, I have to, I feel compelled to give a back story. It doesn’t really happen in a vacuum. I’d heard about STEAM for many, many years with NAEA, the Art Education journal magazine doing a full article about this thing called STEAM, and that one of the meetings I was at mentioned that Virginia has STEAM, I thought that’s very exciting. However, the “A” stands for “applied“ and not “art.” It was only science, technology, engineering, applied, and math. So that sent me a little bit over the edge. The first STEAM talk tried to explain what STEAM is and could be in my view. I went to the school board, the state school board, for the most common and recommended statement about what steam could be with the “A” meaning art. I’ve gotten the Principal Fine Arts chair, Cherry Gardner, from the state. She was there, and she’s kind of mediating and including organizations like the Virginia Coalition for Fine Arts Education. So that’s where that came from, and I’ve written a position paper, really I co-wrote with several people, for the coalition. We presented to the board. Most recently I wrote an article for Art Education (the NAEA journal). Putting it all together, it’s such a long title.
AB: It was great! I loved that article! “Putting It All Together: STEAM, PBL, Scientific Method, and Studio Habits of Mind”. I loved this article.
MG: Thank you, and really, the intent behind that article is to tie all those thoughts and positions together, because they are very similar. But also to me, the meat of this is the 12 goals that I propose about what the “A” in STEAM should include. A lot of it’s based on the (Hetland’s) studio habits of mind, and craftsmanship and things like that. I think the point in this conversation with STEAM is we need to start fine tuning what it is now in order to apply it. So that is the second part of the article. But to me, it’s the most important part, starting that conversation.
AB: Absolutely, having returned to North Carolina from Virginia, and seeing that articulated in very different ways, not only between the districts but between different schools in the same districts, the way that has created an umbrella coverage, as a makers’ space or a Tinker Lab, it has taken a lot of different pathways and iterations. I really love the idea of unifying, not necessarily the language, but maybe the intent and purpose, and application. That sounds particularly exciting!
MG: Andrew Watson, who is in Northern Virginia, is an amazing STEAM person as well. We have had some conversations already and we have talked about what I am having, I have to backtrack and say my advice is completely visual. STEAM is not just visual, it is performing in language arts and so on and so forth. So, most of the things was that we write and say about STEAM are going to be with in our particular art spot. Andrew Watson is the specialist in Alexandria. He has an article in that same journal. He’s really good, I keep telling people. He should be the STEAM guru, not me. He literally wrote the program for Alexandria. He worked with the STEAM coordinator. We think a lot alike, with just enough differences to make it very interesting.
AB: Speaking of all of your involvements and all of the partnerships coalitions and very full CV, you mentioned in one point in your written response to me that your wife encouraged you to take on leadership, and you mentioned specifically Kimberly Gianopolous and Paul Terrell assisting you and being impactful in leading you towards other positions in other steps forward. But when you consider leadership and how it’s come to you, how have you accepted the call, or recognize the calls, or what have you? How have they taken shape for you? How have you ended up in these places and in these positions?
MG: That is one of those questions when they ask you when you do endorsements towards supervision. It is one of the driving questions they ask you actually. I actually get asked this a lot. So, I also ponder a lot, because I am gregarious and outgoing, and I do like pondering in doing, but I never saw myself as a leader. If I reflect back on my life, I’ve been kind of doing leadership-type things all my life. Just not in the academic world, or once I got into the academic world, I was doing them, but did not recognize them as such. You know, I became an elementary teacher, and I became the specialist for the school by the end of the year. That is a leadership position, and I think what it is, is that I like helping so much and I like doing things so much that when these opportunities come along it is natural to say “yes.” I tend to be a “yes, and…” person. That old improvisation. Which is good, but you can also overburden yourself if you’re not careful. So, when these specific leadership positions (and I guess I have to say people recognize these things in me, and encourage me, and supported me), and that encouragement and support, I’m not entirely sure I would have done half of what I’ve done without it simply because I don’t know that I would’ve felt that I was capable, or if I would have been okay taking the chance, or knowing that we tend to become comfortable in own skin and in our positions. Therefore, we could just do that forever. Doing these things is a bit of a risk, and so these people kind of encouraged me to take the leap and take that risk. So you know, once again as someone said there was a path, my path was as an elementary school teacher rather than a high school teacher, and along the way there are little leadership positions along the way. And then we’re going to the VAEA board, and then there is something called instructional technology and resource teaching, we work with teachers. When that position came up and someone said “Oh, gosh, Mike! You should do that!”, and I say, “I know.” And they said “Well, look which are doing already; you should do that.” And I said “okay!” Got that position and then when the specialist position in Henrico County opened up, my predecessor in this job said I should do it. That was Lin Farrell. And I said “Gosh, Lynn, I don’t have any of the skills,” and she goes, “Yes, you do!” and I applied for that job. And that’s kind of what the art people will say-- “Well, yes, you do! I recognize that you have this set of skills and the skills you don’t have, you can learn. You are what they need.” And that is just really nice to hear. So, yeah, in the final analysis, going to try for position like that, I am not going to do it halfheartedly. I am going to go with as much as I can, and that if I get the position I’m not going to work it just partially, I am going to work it as hard as I can. A similar pathway with the board functions that I have done, I have only done YAM (Youth Art Month) and technology for a while, and then administration and supervision chair, I have only done those, but I’m willing to do them and I want them done right. I feel like if I am going to do these things, do them, don’t slack off! That’s probably 10 times what you’ve asked me!
AB: No, that’s wonderful! You can give me too much! I’m very interested in your trajectory and your career here. It’s very inspiring. I guess what I err on the side of not asking about, because it’s going into a different direction, tell me about your art making, your personal art.
MG: I talked about Partners of the Arts changing my life. Well, if I had the time, I would be mostly just a painter. When I talked about Partners in the Arts changing my life, I have to stop and I have all the paintings and stuff. I wrote a paper on Caravaggio and Frank Stella, and their influences, and then, lo and behold, they influence my painting. So if and when do I get back into painting, and I will, I don’t paint on just rectangular surfaces. I paint on shaped canvases. I will take a lot of reference pictures from several angles and then do a composition based on what features are present, or what their powers are. I will focus in and out from different angles on that person with 3 to 7 panels. That’s my painting stuff, unfortunately I haven’t done much of that just because you move between jobs and it’s always a pretty steep curve. The other big artistic output I have is called “RVA Light Man.” I don’t know if you’ve heard about that.
AB: No! I mean, other than your CV. Please tell me about that!
MG: Okay, RVA Light Man, people come up to me and say “What are you?” and I say, “I am a walking, talking sculpture” as the easiest answer. Some people will say “What does that mean?” What I’m trying to do is break down the sense of distance, that conversational distance, between the artwork and the artist. You always have a dialogue with art, and it’s always silent, it’s very brief, and sometimes you know what the art is, but sometimes you don’t. What I do through this particular vehicle is try to take that space between the dialogue to zero. Looking at the artwork, talking to the artwork, and talking to the artist all of the same time. So the feedback loop is live
AB: Wow! Have you ever engaged in dialogue that you have maybe not prepared a picture of this now. This is amazing!
MG: So, it’s really funny. I also want people to be very, very comfortable. If I frown, as a 6’7” tall man carrying sculpture, I can kind of freak people out. So part of it is that I try to make people to feel at ease into great depth and some people walk by as if I’m not even there. Attached to me was a tablet said feedback was literally complete. People could look at the camera and realized that they were being filmed and make dialogue out of that documentation was and I really got to take pictures. So the pictures that you see are my daughter, two pictures of me one time when she was with me. I’ll let up and I have things coming off the top of my head. STEAM, I do it on first Fridays in Richmond, on Broad Street. It is fun, if it’s raining, I don’t do it because I would get electrocuted. That’s the main thing that I do, and this is Version 3. It was a little more mysterious, and a whole lot more intimidating to little kids. This one is just over the top. I keep fiddling with it. I will add something, take something off, you know things like that.! I have little pieces of paper that I just keep and I will put my drink down and draw that on 4 x 4. I see that as if that’s just absolutely, to us it’s normal, but to not everybody else, it’s not. They are sometimes just more than you expect them to be, and then you impress yourself and want to work on it a little bit more add some more to it. You have a dialogue with whatever you are creating constantly. Assessing and self-assessing, and listen some.
AB: I can’t imagine another field, I can’t envision math teachers all getting together. And I’m sure they are passionate. The algebra versus geometry debate and multifaceted, but we seem to be so fun and interesting welded together for art education conversations specifically, extending art, do you find, in addition to the standards? Where would you say your larger passions for Art Education are taking form in your current position?
MG: Well, helping people to understand the importance that the art. Unit, work, but that is the one thing and to our teachers, administrators, and others about, is that, although they can be part of it one thing that I like about the studio habits of mind far better than I could really bring to children the constant use of practice is a lot of that is assessment, and critical thinking, and working to a higher degree of completion. All of those habits because they see art so I try to bring these thoughts or have someone’s name attached to it, say Harvard. I do stuff like the SAT scores, four years of art, heavy art. And they say art reached in every case, you score higher and then there are some places where it might not transfer 100%. It is certainly a strong correlation I printed off and send it to the principals. Because first off, they don’t think that an Art guy can do data, but they also live in a world of data. So I think that’s my big passion, and I also, I say this is my soap box speech, I say this all of the time. You know, the arts are part of our national heritage. When we look back on this world that we live in, we will certainly remember our history, but what’s going to standing are visible examples of our creative efforts. The arts, whether our architecture, painting, sculpture, or music, and in many instances, performances and writing, these are critical and creative thinking, and they all go together. I also think they are super important because we forget that this is part of who we are, and historically, thousands of years out, this is what people are going to look back on and look at it through our primary documentation, that is, and many times it’s going to be arts.
AB: That’s a great soapbox! Yes! Thanks for saying that, I am SO glad I’ve got that on tape!
MG: It’s one of those things that I wanted to say as often as I would like to: just to say come on folks! Look what we have, look what we’ve got, think about it in those terms. You will think about it in a different way inside. You are an art teacher; you know it’s an ongoing struggle. You have to do these things continually.
AB: Going back into the classroom after being out for three years, it’s going to be so exciting to try out everything again. All of the passion is going to get straight into one little classroom together and having a beautiful time. For me, I know we all have different positions on the continuum and the studying of it to head back over into the education portion is intriguing and exciting. I did want to ask a very laser point focus to the pearls of wisdom you have already given, just the great feedback on, or an anecdote: what pearl of wisdom do you have for art education leaders?
MG: I would tell them to go for it! That they are doing the same thing but on a broader scale. You are helping the children, but you are doing it on a scale where you are working with the teachers. You need to know your stuff. Study really, really hard and do take the leadership classes because they are incredibly important. The most difficult part will be leaving the classroom. When everybody else is going to their classrooms and you’re not, You are doing something completely different, you are usually already thinking about three months beyond that. And that a difficult transition. You’re working with administration, you’re working within the county administration. You are doing the same thing. You are just not in the classroom every day with children. And yet, the other part of that you visit the classrooms as much as you can! Lastly, go out and see your teachers. That may or may not be a part of your job description, but almost always it is. Do it as often as possible. If you don’t have to do formal observations, when you go in there you can always have fun observations on the classrooms. You can go and enjoy them more. Work with the kids. I’ve gone into classrooms, and that is the best part of any week I have. I love my job, there is nothing that I dislike about my job at all. But working with, and going into a classroom, and just sitting there and working with the kids, or talking to the kids, you see a picture of me, right? I kind of look like Gru (from Despicable Me). Also, I kind of look like a policeman sometimes. So I come in there with a suit on, and I wear my tags so that they know I’m someone. But they don’t know who I am. These kids are so nice end when you start talking to them about the art, they are really on the up and up. It just helps feed the soul because that is part of why we get into teaching is because we want to make the world a better place. That was all over the place but I would say, anybody who’s going to do this, do it and put all of your efforts into it. Don’t forget your family editor supports. It’s like teaching, you never stop learning. Ever. And for me, I would say, stay positive. It is easy to get caught up into a negative spiral but you have to not do that.
AB: Do you think the negativity that can occur? Is that because of the ambition and hope that you have for things, or seeing the work that has yet to be done? Is it missing the classroom? What would you say could lead to that?
MG: A lot of times people will say things that are counterproductive. Part of the job is being a cheerleader and being a coach, and working with highly educated individuals. You want to make sure that if someone has an issue, you find solutions, and try to get people from this spiral that people can get into, and it’s good to offer solutions and problem solve. Just going “I agree, that’s terrible!” It isn’t going to help anybody.
AB: It sounds like a different scenario for the tried and true saying, “Don’t eat in the teacher workroom at lunch.”
MG: Exactly, don’t. You know, that was one of my first experiences, my student teaching mentor Kimberly told me, “We’re going to eat in the teacher workroom for a week, and then we’re not eating there anymore.” And I said, “Why?” and she said “Well, we’ll just go in there.” It was terrible. I was, and by the way I was a career switcher. I did not begin Art Education until 34, so I was student teaching at 36, but I was amazed and horrified with what teachers say about our kids. At that point, I had two kids at school and two other ones at home. Then Kimberly asked me what I thought, and I said, “That’s terrible stuff to say!” It was really one of those things to try not to feed into the swirl. And granted, at times it’s really difficult.
MG: But with your teachers and co-workers you should never do it. I had this great working partner, Dr. Robin Yohe, and when I am down and feeling “grrr,” she props me up, without fail. And when she’s down and feeling the world is going against her programs, I prop her up. If you can get that golden working environment, go for it. And she is fantastic. We have two different working styles that complement each other incredibly well.
About this time of the year, I begin to schedule my school visits for the year, and if I don’t, I will get caught up in everything else in the job, and never get out. It really is, not just seeing people and being seen, it kinda helps, it helps a lot!
AB: If you have any additional anecdotes, those are the questions, and such a quick written response, thanks so much for that, I know that took some time and reflection to write.
MG: I did, but it’s also a part of my personality, you know you talk about the Myers-Briggs, if I can get things finished. I like to finish them first, and then everyone else says, “Let me see what you did.” And then they do it one hundred times better! I do want to say that before I switched careers, I worked in radio for 13 years. I did just about everything there was to do in radio. And I don’t know how or why that prepared me for education--thinking that I knew there was something else out there that I could be doing, that it would be better for the world than the weird things on evening radio I tried to do. I had to give 150%, or I would get fired, but I also thought of, this is going to sound so weird, even being a traffic reporter, I felt like I was making a difference, helping people out of traffic jams. That’s just sort of that mindset where I want to make the world a better place, and then I came into art education.
AB: Has that always been a drive for you? As a child you remember feeling that way?
MG: I think it was part of me. I just think it grew and got developed as I matured because I was extremely immature as a young man and as a young adult. I was lucky enough to grow up in a small town, Williamsburg, and have a smaller closer group of friends where we all looking back at discussions we had, wondering what we could do for the world. What is the world going to be like after we leave? As we would wax philosophical things, and we would talk about hope. So yeah, it’s probably around high school where these ideas started to become a little bit more sophisticated. But I was going to do art originally. Anyway, I guess that is just a part of my core. Here is the funny thing: art has always been in my life, always. Not in the sense that we would expect me to be in galleries or taking art classes. I always true, I always fiddled around with stuff. It wasn’t what I wanted to be because honestly I didn’t know what I wanted to become! You know, I wanted to be an astronaut; I wanted to do the things that typical little kids want to do. It wasn’t until junior year of high school that people started to ask me what I was going to do and said “Hey, Gettings, you’re a pretty good drawer. What’s with this?” And I had no idea. I just always had a sketchbook with me and colored pencils. I always drew. That’s when I started thinking maybe I could do this, but I had no real training. I graduated from high school, never took an art class. They were channeling me toward a career in technical drawing which is just terrible for me. I worked in a car dealership in the service department and at the same time I was drawing flyers. The city of Williamsburg had me doing illustrations, stuff that I was really unsuited for.
AB: I especially love the part about the philosophical discussions, I don’t think, even as a parent, maybe it’s just that my kids are quite a bit younger, I never thought you are absolutely correct. I do have those conversations about changing the world when they’re just a little bit older. Right now, they are very much in the astronaut, police officer, zoologist phase.
MG: My kids have all gone through that. They all needed different things, and I graduated high school in 1975, during the peace, love and happiness. So maybe it’s a generational thing.
AB: I hope not! We need more people this pumped up about improving things and evolving with the arts. I hope you’re wrong.
MG: I think there are millions of kids out there that do exactly what you’re mentioning, thinking about how to make the world a better place happens all the time and at school. It’s pretty fantastic.
AB: It’s a great scope of the world, in Art Education, isn’t it?
MG: It really is!
AB: I really appreciate your time today, and maybe I will have to come up and see RVA Light Man in the Fall.
MG: If you see a giant man in lights, come up and say “Hi!”
AB: I think this will serve in a document that will offer a different perspective of those of us in Art Education who have come, and shared their goals, passions, and story behind what we can find on CVs and internet searches. So I really appreciate you offering your time and voice to this cause. It’s going to be really great. Thanks for being one of our first dozen.
MG: I have to say again that I am truly honored, this is just a real honor. I cannot express how awed I feel to have even been thought of in this capacity. So thank you, and thanks to Dr. Burton.