Thirds

Teaching third grade is just about as good as it gets in my humble opinion.  Over the span of my teaching career I’ve taught every level from pre-school through 12th grade. There are inherent challenges at each level – and rewards as well.

Last Friday, my students begged and begged and we finally convinced my husband Adrien, who had been their community reader, to visit us. Friday was a special occasion in Room 207; our school has a large Southeast Asian population and we celebrate Cambodian/Lao/Viet Namese New Year every April with a Whole School Meeting. Students bring in tons of delicious homecooked Southeast Asian foods to share and we have a troupe of dancers who perform a traditional dance. Adrien was invited to taste some of the food my students brought to share.

This week was a big one for Adrien as he was one of several artists from Western Avenue Studios interviewed for Chronicle. I shared this with the kids and about half of them actually watched the broadcast!  It was not assigned as homework – honest! Without prompting on my part, some of them mentioned the art they had seen and talked about seeing “their” Mr. Bisson on television. Rock Star status was conferred.

One of the best things about teaching third graders is their unabashed enthusiasm for everything. Some days I even get a “thank you” when I give them a test. And usually there’s quite a bit of cheering when we change things up and go “off  task”. So when the office called the room to tell us Adrien was coming to visit, the excitement was electric. Students were practically airborne when he entered the door — and quite a few ran up to him with paper and pencil for his autograph.  I have to tell you I’ve never seen THAT before.

So when you’re feeling under-appreciated, here’s my prescription: Get yourself to your local elementary school and find a group of third graders.  You’ll feel much better in no time.

Taking chances

Last night, WCVB TV in Boston, featured three artists’ communities in Massachusetts. The one that I am most familiar with is Western Avenue Studios where my husband Adrien has studio space.  Western Avenue Studios is a unique and wonderfully diverse collection of over 250 artists who work in almost any medium you can imagine.  So much talent! And even more impressive, so much collegiality. It is truly a unique community.

The video, features several of the talented artisans, including Adrien, and it was broadcast last night, April 14th on the locally produced show, Chronicle. Here is the video segment featuring Western Avenue from that broadcast.

As Adrien and I watched the video for the first time last night so many things ran through my mind. First of all, when Adrien first started to talk seriously about working as a photographer, I wondered about his sanity in quitting his software job — partially two years ago and completely last August.  When he purchased his first pro equipment, I actually thought he was in the middle of a mid-life crisis — how wrong I was! Over the next months, with determination and purpose, he updated his skills as a photographer, invested in the time to explore what kinds of subjects he found fascinating, and worked at refining a portfolio of work that today blows my mind. As he says in his interview, he tries to capture the subject through the eyes — and oftentimes it is as if he has looked deep into a person’s soul and captured the person’s very essence.

Taking a chance on leaving a sure money-maker that allowed us to live quite comfortably over 25 years was a giant leap of faith. Building a service business is not easy and doing so in the wake of one of the worst economic crises in our recent history is even more difficult.

But I don’t think either of us would have traded one minute of uncertainty for the reward of following your heart into an art that you not only enjoy but you love. Last night’s Chronicle segment completed and affirmed this transformation.

To do what you love and to do it well is awesome. The eloquence of the talented artists at Western Avenue and on this broadcast simply takes one’s breath away.

Art Appreciation

My husband, Adrien, is a photographer. He actually has been a photographer for most of his life, having started out in high school, but was sidetracked by a career in music and in software.  A couple of years ago, he started renting studio space in a revitalized textile mill building in Lowell, MA, Western Avenue Studios, and has been building his photography business ever since.

If you’ve never had a career in the arts, it is quite different from the 9 to 5 corporate world. First of all, as I am always fond of pointing out, unlike my career, you can use the bathroom whenever you want 🙂 Just kidding, Adrien!

What really takes some perseverance is staying focused throughout the cyclical nature of getting commissions and jobs. For example, from the week before Christmas through some time in  late January, not many corporations are interested in scheduling corporate head shot appointments. This creates some down time, which allows Adrien to think about self assignments: photography projects that he works on to develop as a photographer and as an artist.

In addition to working on a portfolio for an upcoming show at the Loading Dock Gallery in Lowell next November, Adrien has been working with a friend of his, Melissa, to create a video of what happens during a professional photo shoot. Here is a link to the stop-action video he created called 396 Square Feet. I think you’ll find it amazing.