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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Art Careers Exploration!: Artists Talk About their Professions & Requirements in the 21st Century

What an excited, eventful day we had in the art room! I surprised my 4th graders with celebrities! Real, successful, and unique artists from Des Moines! I asked Kristian Day and Jon Baldwin from the Des Moines, Iowa area to come and talk to my students about how amazing their jobs are, but also talk about what it really takes to be a successful part of the art world in the 21st century (especially with it's challenges and competition).

Kristian showing the students his Super 8 camera a vintage model that he loves to use and explains how it works. You might have heard of the Steven Spielburg 's movie, "Super 8" which is named after this type of camera.

Kristian Day is a successful independent film maker who has made some very successful documentaries. They have taken the Des Moines area by storm and sweeping across the nation! I attended a screening of one of his documentaries at the Des Moines Art Festival this past summer called "Hybrid Pioneer". It follows the life and eye into the unique style and life of the area artist Brent Housenga (more about Brent:  and clips of Kristian's documentary). Kristian not only films but he does all the sound and editing. He is a composer and likes to take clips from his film and others and compose music to produce an artistic installation like experience. Absolutely amazing.

Most recently his documentary called "Capone's Whiskey: The Story of Templeton Rye" which is the history of  Iowa's role in the illegal moonshine production and creation of the famous brand Templeton Rye during the rich history of prohibition. Kristian actually got people, from over generations of staying quiet, to reveal their most intimate stories of famous history that had never been uncovered till now! You might have heard PBS having a documentary film series called "Prohibition". PBS aired Kristian's documentary right after it!!!! I watched it on PBS the first time. Then Kristian invited us to his documentary's premire at the Fleur Cinema and Cafe where many of the people interviewed were also attending to see it on the big screen. 

Kristian explained how filming works and how sound is recorded. He also passed around mini posters of his new film he's working on with a friend and film maker called "Kung Fu Graffiti"  ( and mentioned he would love to do a screening here in Grinnell! He travels all around the world to film festivals to showcase and share his films.

Jon Baldwin is a successful visual artist in Des Moines. We works in all different kinds of media from drawing to painting to printing. He's very versatile. He shows in galleries whenever possible and has a thriving buisness of selling his visual productions. Jon also does commissions for buyers. Jon really did a great job of expressing how important passion is in your art and staying true to yourself. Don't be hurt by others when they say when they don't like your art. Take it in and take something away from it to learn about what you do. However, sometimes you have to cooperate and make changes within the way you make your art for a customer to make them happy. It is a business and you sometimes have to sacrifice your personal ideas to make your customer happy to create a good reputation. However, don't loose yourself and change to conform to everyone's liking. Jon explained you don't have to have the highest quality of art supplies to make successful art. He mentioned he uses all kinds of media including the same brands that we use in our art classroom!

Jon knew we had been studying amazing artists like Vincent Van Gogh and wanted
to point out his striking resemblance along with how he's inspired by other artists' styles

students looking at Jon's art that was inspired by childhood interests
Both artists explained how important is to keep learning, asking, inquiring, exploring, and discovering in their field. They are lifelong learners. As soon as you stop wanting to learn and grow, you loose out on opportunities to be successful and overcome the competition. Artists are hardworking who don't ever stop wanting to be successful. Passion is their main drive to work through obsticles and creativity is what helps them overcome these obstacles. What inspired my students was the fact both artists said their career decision was made and inspired by art during their elementary years of childhood! Most of their art comes from concepts they discovered and loved as a child. I agreed with both artists when they said "Artists are really just kids at heart. We love to have fun through creating and sharing our ideas with others. Art is the way we communicate."

students asked Jon and Kristian for autographs after holding discussion with the class
What was more amazing than anything was the fact that my students held great discussion and questions with our artists. They asked thought provoking questions about their jobs and it was so great to see the critical thinking skills and inquiring ways of my students. I would jump in and ask my students questions back and also ask questions in relation with 21st century skills. Here's more information about Kristian.

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