#WeAllDeserveArts: Michael Bell, Fine Arts Supervisor for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools

#WeAllDeserveArts: Students deserve arts education now more than ever

May 22, 2020

Written by Michael Bell, Visual Artist & Fine Arts Supervisor for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools

We all deserve arts.

It’s why throughout history, no matter what the tragedy in the world, whether it’s this global pandemic, 9/11, or just finding ways to express what words often fail to describe…it’s always been the arts the world has turned to for answers, and to help others find that “voice” that matters most.

For me—why we all deserve arts is very personal. Life begins and ends for me with art.

Like the sun rising and setting over this vast sea of creative potential all around us, if you’re not careful it’ll sweep you in too. Like a riptide reaching for you through an endless dream, it’s art that can take you to a magical place where stories are born.

Art reached for me early on, creating a path where there wasn’t one, giving a voice to my story, and I began “drawing that line from my life to my art” at the age of five. It’s when I won my first art show, and I never looked back. Art keeps us human that way. It shares with others what it’s like to be alive, and what it’s like to be uniquely you. But it’s so much more than that. It’s hopeIt’s beliefIt’s our freedom. It’s why we fight to protect it. Because art…it can take us anywhere.

Reflecting on all the artists who have touched my life and made it better along the way, I also think about all the teachers under my Supervisory umbrella. I hope my message to “stay artists” continues to ring through for them loud and clear. Let’s hold on to that. Keep dreaming big!

Much like the faces that emerged from past Olympic games, each Olympian also had stories that made them legendary. The Mayor of Virginia Beach once said of gymnast Gabby Douglas, “I can’t help but admire someone so young and talented—someone who overcame so many challenges and yet kept up such a grueling training regimen.”

Bob Bowman, lifelong trainer of Michael Phelps said of him: “I’ve always tried to find ways to give him adversity and have him overcome it. The higher the level of pressure, the better Michael performs…that’s what makes him the greatest.”

Usain Bolt, World Record holder from Jamaica in Track & Field said this of himself: “I want to give the kind of performance that makes you remember where you were when you saw it.”

And most recently, in ESPN’s “The Last Dance”, one of the unique qualities that makes Michael Jordan legendary is the creative way he kept his competitive fires lit to always find the will to win, and lift everyone else up around him to play above their heads.

Athletes—like artists, writers, musicians, dancers…we are all born from similar temperament. Something makes us individuals in the extreme. Only it’s our imagination that gives us that ability to rise above all limitations. ‘Owning’ that one creative thing that makes you “uniquely you” also makes us fearless. So, while we don’t have control over much these days, we can take control over what we dream, what we create, and in doing so, take fearless steps toward what we will become.

As artists we put our work out there for the world to see, and now is when the real hard work must begin. All alone—at our easels, behind our cameras, in our journals, with our instruments, dancing, singing, acting in front of that mirror…creating “our stories.” Giving what’s in our mind’s eye meaningful form and expression. Showing the world why we all deserve arts.

Dreaming it. Creating it. Becoming it.

As I began writing this, I reflected on my painting process, which once began with poetry…and I immediately thought of the amazing Gayle Danley and her inspiring M:BRACE poetry session from the other day. Her prompt “I’m still standing” resonated with me, and I know the arts will still be standing too once the smoke clears. I also reflected on the hashtag #WeAllDeserveArts and decided to conclude with a poem I wrote:

#WeAllDeserveArts

“We all deserve arts…
     from someone who cares
              from someone who’s dared
                   to face a world that is scared

We all deserve arts…
     for the magic of momentum
              the roaring crowds who represent some
                   who work in silence of their sanctums

We all deserve arts…
     because it builds belief
              it’s the wheel for the grease
                   the wind beneath our feet
                   that allows us to soar
              where creative sparks roar
     and fires burn paths
with the flick of a match

We all deserve arts…
     It’s where the dream begins
              it’s where hopelessness ends
                   it’s where we embrace life again…

              …through the arts.”

#WeAllDeserveArts

Michael Bell is Supervisor of Visual and Performing Arts, World Languages and Media for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools. Bell is also a renowned American artist, author, TED speaker, and former three-time national award-winning Teacher of the Year.  

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