Wednesday, May 9, 2012

mr. mallett- art education advocate

Last week I did a lesson based on designer and animation artist Zac Mallett. His response to the kids' work was one of the most eloquent we have received. I thought it was very on point, especially as the district is about to cut 1600 teaching positions, including 21 art positions. Zac recognizes the importance of art education and its impact on future generations of inventors and designers, as well as the American economy.

Please check it out.

Hi Don,

Your email really made my day (week, month!) Of all the feedback I've had over the years, seeing your lesson plan and the kids' work is by far the most touching and meaningful. There seems to be a real joy in the students' work, and in all the work on the Zamorano page. Their use of colour, combined with the fantastic robot illustrations and really positive messages has made some great pieces. I hope they had fun with the style and they should be very proud of their work!

I'd like the students to know that my day job is creating visual effects for TV shows and movies, and that while most of my work is done on a computer, the experiences I had as a kid in art class (both in school, and in the community) gave me the basic knowledge I use every day. Whether it's drawing on paper, painting on canvas, or compositing a fire-breathing dragon that flies across a movie screen, the concepts of positive and negative space, colour theory, line of action, etc all apply. The education they're getting today will prepare them for possibilities they haven't dreamed of yet, and will enrich their lives no matter what direction they choose.

Don, to see such thoughtful and aware pieces from kids that age is extraordinary, and to have played a small role is their artistic development is extremely humbling. You seem to be doing a fantastic job fueling your students' creativity, and exposing them to such a range of styles, techniques and influences is just inspirational - they're truly fortunate.

Thank you again for your kind words and for making the choice to be an art teacher - people like you make such a huge difference.

All the best,

Zac Mallett

I replied to his email and got another one back, just as inspirational as the first. In my message I mentioned how the arts were taking a big hit in our budget, as well as education in general.

Thursday, May 03, 2012 10:12 AM
Hi Don,

It seems that art programs (and anything other than math and science) are being squeezed, or eliminated everywhere. Emerging market growth, jobs moving overseas, and a perceived lack of competitiveness in North America are all strong pressures on decisions makers to push schools to be leaner, and focus more on subjects that are felt to give students a leg up. The arts are often seen as a luxury we can no longer afford, but this is far from true.

In a global economy North America can't hope to compete directly with heavy industry in China, textile manufacturing in Vietnam, or soon even with computer programmers in India. If North America is to preserve our current standard of living we have to embrace a creative, knowledge based economy. Art and design is at the core of such an economy.

When you speak to you school board, parent groups, or politicians ask them this: The iPhone in their pocket was made in China, but where were the layout and images designed? By a graphic artist in America. The Timex on their wrist was made overseas, but it was planed and created by an industrial designer in America. The clothes on their back were made in India, but they were created by a fashion designer in America. You can go on, and on, and on.

Art and design, whether it's industrial or commercial, architecture or Cola ads, is most effective within a cultural context. Art and design are a part of jobs in every sector across America, and they can't be done for 5 cents an hour in China. These jobs are well payed, highly demanding and require a deep understanding of life and tastes in America. These are jobs that cannot be sent overseas.

And each one of those jobs builds on the concepts and creativity that children gain from art class. Art is not a luxury, it is everywhere and in every man-made object we see each day. Schools like Zamorano are not frivolous, but are the building blocks of a diverse knowledge based economy. The artistic knowledge they pass on enriches lives, creates more thoughtful citizens, and provides California with the dynamic workforce it needs for tomorrow.

I'm sure you know all of this already Don, but it's just so important. I hope you and your fellow teachers know that whatever happens, you've really made an impact, and should be so proud of what you've achieved. 

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, upon receiving the Nobel Prize after years of writing and suffering in a Soviet gulag, simply said: "Beauty Will Save the World". I don't know if art can save the world, but it helps to make a world worth living in.

All the best,


Thanks again Zac for the words of support and encouragement. You are spot on.


  1. D,

    I am having difficulty understanding how a district can cut 1600 teaching positions. Who will be left to teach the kids? Are you in San Diego? 21 ART TEACHERS?!!!?? I hope they have dual certification in another subject subject because you and I both know how hard it is to find an art teaching position! I am sickened by this news and I sincerely hope that you will come out unscathed because your students not only need YOU, they deserve to have an art teacher of your caliber teaching them!

    :) Pat

  2. san diego, indeed. thanks for the kind words Pat:)