Jacob Mann

Hi, my name is Jacob Mann. I cover the Art Beat for the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.

Stories start in many different ways. This story is the final installment of a three-part series creating a community dialogue over art education and creativity’s role in our daily lives.

Well, here we are the finish line of this mini-series of sorts. I’ve gathered an interesting mosaic of community voices through this process. I got more than enough content than I bargained for. I thoroughly enjoyed musing over the muses and chatting about creativity.

I gained a lot of interesting insight and general thought provocation through these conversations. I hope their words prompt you to lateral thinking and perhaps into a full-blown brainstorming session, so we can continue finding ways to come together as a community to foster creativity wherever we see it, knowing that art plays a role in all of our lives, not just in the ones who make it.

But of course, they said it better than I, so without further ado, here are some of the main highlights from all my interviews discussing art education and the value of creativity.

Darren Smith, Valley musician, and HarpDaddy Backcountry Blues Jam event organizer

With the parameters we all have to work with, what ideas do you have for creating opportunities to learn creative skills?

“Like Zoom, online type of stuff. YouTube certainly, if you’re just wanting to be a self-starter with your own stuff. But, there’s nothing like being in person with somebody.”

How important is art in our daily lives?

“That’s our culture right there… Artists, like musicians, are almost expected to play for, quote on quote, ‘exposure...’ You’ve got a lot of balls that are not in our favor as far as trying to get paid and make a living making music… I think it’s as important as any other organization really. I do believe that live music changes us. I think it’s needed, and I think we’ve seen over the last year what happens when you don’t have it.”

Sara Squartsoff-McKinley, Valley artist and Paint Nights with Sara owner

Do you feel like art education is one of the first things on the chopping block and if so why?

“I definitely feel like art, and definitely in schools, is one of the first things that gets cut… It’s a tough job when you’re a teacher… and a lot of teachers do a great job with what they have available. But. it is definitely something that is lacking in the school systems, and even after-school programs or things for kids that are interested in art. There’s just not a whole lot available. So, that’s why next year we’re starting our after-school program too…

Do you feel like there are ways to fill in the gaps and foster local creativity?

“I do... It’s challenging to find artists that teach and can afford to. That’s one of my goals too at the studio. The people we have on staff, we’re all really good at different mediums, that we have a variety to offer our customers. But, it’s hard to find, so it is challenging if someone’s interested. But now there’s also the world of Youtube… The internet is such a wealth of knowledge, and that has totally changed the art game I think for future generations… Art is always evolving. It’s always changing.”

Wendy DeGraffenried, Mat-Su Central school nurse

Do you think art complements other subjects like math or science, and help you think outside the box?

“Absolutely… I think channeling the creative process, which is for me, having an idea or an epiphany and staying with it long enough to work it out in your mind, how you want to start manifesting that… That’s being creative. That’s creating something in your mind and manifesting it… Anything, any process.”

Rob Menzies, Bigfoot Art Gallery owner

Can you imagine a world without art?

“No, uh uh. It would be so boring. I don’t know what we’d be doing without art. Everybody needs a pause and to enjoy the colors, and appreciate everything around them. Every once in a while, we have to stop. I think that’s what art does… It just stops them in their tracks, like ‘oh, I like that.’ It kind of speaks to different people.”

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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