Thursday, November 30, 2006

the pebble that changes the world

I teach a class called "Senior Seminar." In this class we talk about issues affecting us as artists and designers, including our role in the world around us. At the end of the semester, each student is to give a presentation on a topic of choice. This morning one student gave a presentation. The topic of her presentation was "Can Art Serve as a Vehicle to Change the World?" She spoke about the power of art to capture the minds and imaginations of people. Art can be used to educate people about topics of importance. She showed one photograph -- which sparked incredible debate throughout the world. Mostly condemning the photographer for 1) taking the picture and 2) not taking action in the situation he photographed. I will not go into details about the photograph itself, but it did create a lot of dialogue within the class (which was one of the intentions of this assignment).

Another student responded to this presentation by talking about what she witnessed in this country during the Vietnam war. She kept saying "over there." It became very interesting to me that most of these issues that we talk about are "over there." We are so uninvolved in things that are not directly affecting us, that everything else becomes "over there." When does over there become right here? Do we have to wait until it is in our face? I think we need to realize that each of our actions, positive or negative, has an effect on someone or something else.

Yesterday another class was discussing the Cradle to Cradle chapter on Eco-effectiveness. I asked them how they could take the principles into their own lives, work, or designs. All of the students told me that this class has changed their lives. Can you believe that? A graphic design class has changed their lives. One student has told me that she is trying to get her workplace to create less waste. Another told me that she is now eating organic local foods and is using eco-friendly products. One told me that he is telling others about what can be done to change their impact on the environment. Each one has been effected.

I think this is a good example of the power of the pebble. A year ago I would not have had any interest in my personal impact on the world. Once I decided to go without purchasing (by Compacting), I learned how much I personally contributed to waste. I learned the small changes I could make. I became interested in doing whatever I could to make a healthier world. J told me that one person could not make a difference. I disagree.

I did not tell my students that they had to make changes. I told them they had to do research on "Living Responsibly in the 21st Century" and create designs to change the behaviors of others. I did not expect them to come away from the class as changed people - only to see the power of design and create good designs (the designs are incredible and I have permission to post them when they are complete). Perhaps Art can serve as a vehicle to change the world.

The pebble is creating waves.


Anonymous said...

Margaret Mead said
"Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

BurdockBoy said...

Classes like yours are wonderful. I had several classes at Northland that I walked away from feeling changed.

I am very happy for you.

Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

Passionate teachers make for some passionate students. In my opinion, professors should have something they are professing. Good job, Emme.

Jim said...


I just discovered your wonderfully enlightened, informed and educational blog through simplytim's 'I Will Rush No More' blog.

I will be back when I have some time to dig through your archives.

It seems that we share many interests and concerns. I started our blog after discovering the Path To Freedom folks a couple of years ago. My wife and have not owned an automobile now for almost 10 years, and like you we are just taking small steps toward sustainability.

It's always heartening for me to find people like you who are on a similar path.

Beo said...

Your story reminds me of the Dar Williams song Echoes.

My favorite Ghandi Quote bumpersticker-ized:
"Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Thank you for being the change Emme!