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A sense of place: "are we there yet?".

If you've ever traveled with young children, you've heard that question many times. Much of our life is spent in anticipation of a destination--a special place.

Sometimes the anticipation of place moves us forward in life--like+ Noah Calhoun in Nicholas Sparks' The Notebook, whose lifelong dream was to restore an old house on a North Carolina coastal river. Sometimes our connections to place take us back in time--like Isak Dinesen's memories of her farm in Africa "at the foot of the Ngong Hills."

Our connections with places are personal journeys. We all interpret and, in one way or another, record our impressions of special places. Our connections with nearby places are strengthened through community activism. We all take pride in being a part of a community. Our connections with faraway places are enriched by global pursuits. We all imagine other parts of the world.

Connecting to Place

The need to connect with place permeates our lives. We want to know where we are, where we are going, and where we have been. Because we can remember places, we often return to them in our minds.

My mother spent her final years wanting to return to her home. The home she kept returning to in her mind was not the Sears and Roebuck house she and my father built and shared for more than sixty years. Nor was it the farmhouse, built by her father, in which she grew up. The place pictured in her mind must have been the house where she was born more than ninety years ago. Unable to remember much of anything else, my mother remained connected to an early place that had special meaning for her.

Remembering Place

The sense of place is rather amazing. Although I have never spent long periods of time around elderly people suffering from dementia (apart from myself), I now regularly visit my mother-in-law in a locked, assisted living facility.

Although the octogenarian residents cannot remember how to get back to their rooms, they can tell you about the houses where their parents are still waiting for them to come home for dinner. The sense of place is deeply embedded, even in distorted memories.

We all have places that hold special meaning for us. Although individuals in societies around the world are characterized as being highly mobile, some individuals and groups are so bound to a place that they never leave. Some may travel great distances, only to re-create aspects of their places of origin in newfound lands.

Picturing Place

Just as people throughout time and around the world demonstrate a strong connection to place, so too do artists. We identify certain artists with specific places--Emily Carr is western Canada, Grant Wood is rural Iowa, Thomas Eakins is the Schuylkill River, Canaletto is Venice, and Constable is rural England.

Some artworks are created to show that places are special--entry-ways, gardens, or monuments are constructed to mark and distinguish a place or to show where important things happened. Artists also make artworks to show us places that actually exist, or they might create imagined places that frighten or amuse us.

Documenting Place

The articles in this issue of SchoolArts remind us that every place has a history and that places have stories to tell about their past. In their examination of place as a theme, young artists document the history of their community, consider vandalized places, commemorate treasured places, photograph everyday places, and actively promote pride of place.

For the students whose art is featured in this issue, art is truly a personal journey, a community connection, and a global pursuit. And although these young artists are clearly aware of the goals, objectives, and standards for each learning experience, they may still ask out of habit, "Are we there yet?"
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editor's Comments
Author:Katter, Eldon
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Previous Article:Red Studio:
Next Article:Inspiring excellence.

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