ALL HAIL THE ARBITER OF ART! (Part 2)

The next morning, I got out of bed after only 3 hours of sleep, not sure what the hell had happened, and not sure what I wanted to do about it. The last thing I wanted was to continue to work for an event that I found, quite simply, irritating. But it bothered me to think that I’d be crushing children’s creativity. I mean, that’s the last thing I’d ever wanted to do to any kid.

I went back through old emails and re-read what my friend and I had talked about way back in February and March about this little arts program, and I spend most of the day talking to friends and to RegularDad and checking my motives. In the end, I realized that the best thing to do was to write up the guidelines that we’d planned on writing, guidelines I should have had written already before I went into that planning meeting. If I’d been prepared, I could have handled it better. I could have stuck to my guns, so to speak, and not lost my temper.

So, I wrote up a detailed description of my little arts program, including guidelines for what things the kids could present. I stated specifically that the program welcomed all forms of art, including modern music and dance, but that the children had to be the ones performing the piece. Air guitar and lip-sync-ing, while fun and entertaining, just didn’t meet the requirements any more than a child saying she wanted to play the piano and then popping in a CD of Beethoven’s 5th and then wiggling her fingers in the air over the piano keys would.

I had RegularDad edit this thing for me twice, making sure I removed any passive aggressive statements that just didn’t need to be there. (Yes, there were a few.) Then I wrote an apology to everyone who’d been at the meeting, saying I’d been unprepared to discuss the Afternoon with the Arts program and apologizing for that, and for my disruptive behavior. RegularDad reviewed my apology email for me before I sent it, to make sure there wasn’t anything passive aggressive in it. (This time there wasn’t.) I attached the guidelines document to the email and told them that this document was what I’d been trying to explain about the changes to the Afternoon with the Arts program, and that the guidelines would be effective immediately. I sent off the email and hoped for the best.

Then, after a long talk with the other friend who I was working with on this thing, I posted the guidelines out to the homeschool group in general and asked the membership to review the document so that everyone would be clear in what the program was about before signing up to do it.

It was the best I could do to heal a bad situation. Or so I thought.

Two days later, I got an email from the homeschool group’s leader (HIP-HOP Mom). She obviously didn’t like the guidelines I’d posted. She began to use phrases like: “As the director of this homeschool group I am going to give you permission to make your own decisions [about these guidelines] but I really think you need to reconsider what you’ve done…” etc etc etc. She also said that I was negatively impacting her son’s self esteem by not allowing him to play air guitar and sing along to a CD. And that I was denying him his chance to show his “love of dance”. (Huh??? He loves dance, I thought to myself? That’s the first I’ve heard of THAT. And I didn’t see him dancing all that much when he did his HIP HOP routine, either. But… WHATEVER…)

I bristled a bit. Well… I bristled  A LOT at that, actually.

I didn’t like the idea of her giving me permission to do anything, really, least of all as it pertained to an event that I’d created myself and ran on a purely volunteer basis. “Her” homeschool group wasn’t funding me, hadn’t commissioned me to create this thing. I’d just accidentally created it and posted it through her group because it’s the primary group I network in. I didn’t like the fact that she’d donned her “directorship” hat and began posturing with it. Never before had I seen her do anything like that before. She intimated that she OWNED my arts program, and that she somehow had final authority with how I ran it.

But I’d already lost my temper and lost face with people in this group as a result. So, I didn’t answer her. I called my friend who was running the thing with me and asked if there was precedent for this woman to take over something I’d created. (There wasn’t.) I showed her email to RegularDad. He frowned at it, thought for a moment, and said: “Don’t do anything. She’s not asking you a question here. She’s just pissed and blowing off steam. Ignore it and it’ll go away. If nothing else, wait 3 days before you reply.”

It was good advice. So I took it. I did nothing.

So, probably as a result of my silence, the next day, HIP-HOP mom and ROCK BAND mom went public. They took the fight to the public message board, and what followed was a couple of days of hellish absurdities. They dubbed me the “arbiter of what is art” and basically attempted to burn me at the stake on the board. I’ve been told that I’ve damaged the self-esteem of their children and children everywhere. I’ve been told I have a narrow definition of art. HIP-HOP mom restated her belief that as the director of the group, she had the final authority over my little arts program and that all along she’d been “giving me permission to make my own decisions about my program with the hope that I’d come to the proper conclusions” etc about what kinds of acts the kids could perform. And now that I’d made the wrong decision, she was terribly disappointed at the fact that I was excluding her children. And that they’d be forced to no longer attend.

I was told all of these things publicly, in front of the 100 or so families that make up that particular homeschool community. ROCK BAND mom asked the group directly to express their opinions of me and the decisions I had made about ART.

And the funny thing is, only 2 people actually responded to that question. One to say she thought I had the right to set whatever rules I wanted in a program I’d created and put the work into, and that she appreciated me taking the time to write out such detailed guidelines because it helped her to have that information. Then another mom posted in saying she was an artist and understood my vision, but she also thought that it would be a good idea to create another program that didn’t focus solely on art media, a entertainment-based program where the kids could do whatever acts they wanted.

HIP-HOP mom seized upon that idea immediately, made a large public show of saying she was moving her kids to THAT FAR SUPERIOR PROGRAM in which no child’s self-esteem would ever be threatened by ME the evil nasty mean mom, the Arbiter of Art, who won’t let them do air guitar anymore.

I’m condensing a lot of this into as brief an explanation as I can, but you get the idea. My week sucked, basically. Somewhere in the middle of all this bullshit, I posted one final message to the group, asking them all again to read my guidelines and make their own decisions about if they wanted to attend my program. I said that while I didn’t think of myself as the arbiter of art, I was definitely the arbiter of what I would invest my own time and energy into. And I left it at that.

As far as I know, at this point, HIP-HOP mom and ROCK BAND mom are busy planning out their new ‘That’s Entertainment!’ program. And I’m sure they’re gleefully excluding me from it. Creating guidelines of some sort. Something to the effect of THE ARBITER OF ART NEED NOT APPLY.

But during those days, I did also receive a smattering of supportive emails and phone calls. Not a huge amount, but enough to know that I’m not being crazy or unreasonable, enough to keep me going, and to know who my friends really are. The best of those emails included two from leaders of two other local homeschool groups in the area. They’d been following the drama and they both emailed me to offer support and asked if I’d like to advertise my arts program through their boards. In the end, Afternoon with the Arts may just prevail. But even if it doesn’t, even if it folds, it’ll be okay.

So, the drama died down, and things have moved on. And I thought I was over it, but I’m not really. Because here’s the thing:

I was embarrassed when they called me the Arbiter of What Is Art. Embarrassed because that’s something only snobs would do, right? And no one wants to be a snob… or at least no one wants to APPEAR to be a snob, right? And through all the ugliness of the past few days, and the cringing and the sitting on my hands NOT REPLYING no matter how much I wanted to, what haunted me the most was the idea that I’d destroyed a little boy’s love of dance. That’s what HIP-HOP mom accused me of in the end, remember? And I tortured myself for days with the idea that I’d destroyed something so precious in a child. If I’d ever imagined that all of this would come to THIS POINT, I never would have said a damn word. I would have just folded the program and walked away rather than hurt a child.

For days, I’ve replayed in my mind every performance that little boy ever did. And never once did he say he was going to perform “DANCE”. Never once did he actually attempt any dance steps. He’d put on sunglasses and held a microphone in one hand and mumbled along to a rap song, his plastic guitar hanging over his shoulders. It certainly didn’t look like dance to me. But what if I was wrong???

It haunted me, I tell you.

But then, in my Internet wanderings, I came across this video:

I watched this video. And then I watched it again. And again. And again.

And then I came to my senses. Because if I was ever confused about what the Love of Dance looks like, I sure wasn’t anymore. Every single moment in that video screams LOVE OF DANCE.

I realized finally that this whole fight was never about a kid’s love of dance at all. This whole fight was about the laziness of two women who didn’t want to put in the work in takes to help a child find his way in the Arts. The Arts are HARD. And both of those women knew that what their kids were performing wasn’t ART at all. Because impossible as it is to define ART, one thing that all the ARTS contain is VOICE. And voice is something that simply cannot be faked. There is no shortcut to voice. To find it, you have to risk it all. Even if you’re only eight years old. You have to take the risk. And if you have a child who shows an interest in the ARTS, then it is your JOB as a MOTHER to help them take that risk. Because there is just no other way.

And so I find that I’ve changed my mind after all. The Arbiter of Art, they called me? Well, somebody pass me a crown and scepter. I’ll take that title gladly. And the first thing I’m going to do with my position is to point at the two of them and shout loudly till all the world stops to hear:

SHAME ON YOU, YOU VAPID, LAZY BITCHES! I may be the one who disappointed your children this week, but I am NOT the one who failed your children this week. That honor rests with the both of you, and you alone.

Putting your kids up there with a karaoke machine sure is easy, but it certainly isn’t helping your kids at all. If nothing else, it hinders them, makes them think that they can’t try in their own voice, however fumbling those early voices are and must be. Trying to cloak your own laziness underneath the rubric of “love of dance’ spits in the face of every dancer out there who has spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours practicing until it hurt, the same steps over and over again, while a choreographer claps and chants mercilessly FIVE-SIX-SEVEN-EIGHT! AND AGAIN!!! until they’re at the very brink of exhaustion, and then they find a way to go an extra 15 minutes anyway.

Don’t you dare speak to me about the love of dance. Don’t you dare cheat your children and cheapen the Arts with your own faulty rhetoric just to make yourselves look noble. Your children’s self-esteem would skyrocket through the stratosphere if you just would give them the chance to try on their own to sing with their own voices. For them to fumble their way through even half a verse of Rapper’s Delight would be far more beautiful than 15 minutes of them whispering along to someone else.

SHAME ON YOU, I say! And shame on me, for believing for even one moment that this ever had anything remotely to do with me.

I am the Arbiter of Art!

Hear. me. ROAR!

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18 Responses to “ALL HAIL THE ARBITER OF ART! (Part 2)”


  1. 1 Mom #1 September 4, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    OMG, I LOVED that video. Anything dancey and musical is my favorite.

    I think you did the right thing with the old bitties.

    You’re so right, they were just passing on their own frustrations onto you. Even if your program is a little (or a lot) smaller this year, it’ll be a more quality event with people who truly love the arts.

    I wish I were closer, I’d certainly be there.

  2. 3 GailV September 5, 2010 at 8:47 am

    Coincidentally, we’d been watching that dance clip earlier in the week, too. Very inspiring for my daughter who is interested in tap and ballet. She can’t stop talking about it.

    You’ve done a great job of handling this, particularly the part where you didn’t reply right away. I would’ve gone all passive-aggressive, like having them over for one last AFternoon of Art during which my kids acted out their own interpretation of Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”.

  3. 4 RegularMom September 5, 2010 at 9:23 am

    LOL! Thanks Gail. I have RegularDad to thank for all that not-responding. I normally would have gone all passive aggressive too. Like, now I’m thinking about being Harrison Bergeron for Halloween. 😉

  4. 5 Ami September 5, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    I think you handled things well, too.

    What a bunch of assholes some of those moms are!
    Love of dance my ass.

    Around here, my hub is the cooler head when it comes to dealing with me and my stuff, but he flies off the handle inappropriately when it’s his own stuff… go figure.

  5. 6 candyn September 5, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Standing! Clapping! Whistling! :0)

    I was at the store the other day looking for a birthday present for my girl. I saw a whole display of paper electric guitars for kids. The newest toy craze?! I thought of you. xoxoxo

  6. 8 RegularSis September 7, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Oh, if only you were The Arbiter of Art! Lip-syncing competitions – gone! Hannah Montana videos – gone! Taylor Swift “songs” – gone! Performances by these entertainers relegated to slumber parties or ChuckECheezes. Where will you strike next? Oh don’t know, but I plan to spend several hours daydreaming about a world where RegularMom is The Arbiter of Art.

    Love you,

    RegularSis

  7. 9 RegularMom September 7, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    *snort!*

    Of course, if I ran the world, there’d be no ChuckECheeses. Anywhere. Ever.

    But that’s a whole ‘nother post. 😉

  8. 10 whimsyway September 9, 2010 at 5:36 am

    Good for you. I completely agree with your take on things. Yes, art is almost impossible to define, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to. Otherwise it fails to mean *anything* at all. The masters- whether they were painters, dancers, whatever- worked damn hard to get where they got. They didn’t just flit about, waving their paintbrushes like a magic wands now and then. They were dedicated to their craft and spent all the hours God gave on their calling. Wear your crown proudly, Regular Mom. 😉

  9. 11 RegularMom September 10, 2010 at 9:49 am

    “The masters- whether they were painters, dancers, whatever- worked damn hard to get where they got. They didn’t just flit about, waving their paintbrushes like a magic wands now and then.”

    Yes! Exactly! 🙂

  10. 12 AztecQueen2000 September 20, 2010 at 12:29 am

    If we were closer, and if the sloppy finger-paint collaberation of my two toddlers counts as “art” I would be right there with you.

  11. 13 InstinctiveMom September 23, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    You make me want a snarky mom’s group full of women trying to pass off their laziness as my bitchiness just so I can send them this post. 🙂
    You’re awesome. This post is awesome. And I bet your Afternoon with the Arts program is awesome, too.
    ~h

  12. 14 Lisa September 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    You are awesome! Congratulations on your new title!! 😉

    I agree with you completely on this one, you did the right thing all the way through – even losing your temper. I would have left flaming poo on their doorsteps after some of those comments. 🙂

  13. 15 Lisa September 30, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Oh, and I forgot to mention – I nominated/presented you with a blogs I love award on my neglected blog. You’re the Arbiter of Art AND a winner of the Cherry on Top Award. Yay, you! 🙂

  14. 16 Deb October 1, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I just came over from Creekside Learning, and I never comment on blogs the first day I read them…but Holy Crap on a Cracker!

    Those women sound psycho! They protest a little much, don’t you think? Probably they are all embarrassed because they got caught being lazy and are turning the whole thing around to try to distract everyone from noticing the level of their homeschool-art-suckage.

    That video made me miss Patrick Swayze a little. But Travolta in the short-shorts doing the hip thrust crossed right over into ickville for me.

  15. 17 Nancy in Alberta October 2, 2010 at 1:45 am

    I landed at your blog a little serendipitously, and was aghast along with everyone else at the shallowness of it all. PLEASE say people don’t really think air guitar is art *sob* I’ve really never encountered such drivel…how did you not guffaw in their faces, is my question? What control you have!

    And thanks for the trip down movie nostalgia lane. That was fabulous. Keep your wits about you, lass! And I’m glad to see you’re sticking to your original guns.


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