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Role models: in the company of women.

I have lived most of my life in the company of women. I guess you could say that women have always dominated the bright side of my life (as opposed to the dark side of Camelot). Adrienne and I quickly filled our house with three daughters, and we now have one granddaughter. My wife is one of four sisters, so family gatherings are dominated by women's voices -- and they are listened to.

As a young child I had bouts of severe pain in my legs and sometimes could not walk, so I depended on my sister to pull me everywhere in a little red wagon. I was inseperable from my sister and probably spent as much time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother as in the fields with my dad. I even quilted with the Ladies Aide Society on Thursday afternoons, acquiring a lasting appreciation for the fine art of quilting.

My schooling was also dominated by the voices of women. Most of my elementary and high school teachers were women, as were most of my undergraduate professors, more than one of whom became lasting mentors. I don't think I had a male professor in my major subjects -- art and journalism -- until I went to graduate school at the University of Minnesota. There I studied art and journalism only with men, often with great frustration and without a lasting or memorable mentor. This was not by choice. I don't think there were women teaching graduate courses in those departments at the University of Minnesota in the 1950s.

Did any of this matter? Did growing up in the company of women and being guided by women's voices make a difference in my life? Yes, I think it did. I think it made me a more confident father to daughters, a more compassionate husband, and a more supportive teacher of young women as well as young men. It might also explain why so much of my professional work has been in collaboration with women. There's trust in all these relationship.

But then again, maybe it didn't matter. Perhaps being in the company of another gender had nothing to do with the feelings of inspiration, self-worth, support, and encouragement that I experienced in my formative years. Perhaps it was simply the absence of competitiveness and the absence of fear of disapproval, regardless of gender. Perhaps it was simply the presence of confidence and trust. Perhaps I just had good role models.

Guides, counselors, tutors, coaches, advisors, instructors, teachers. To some they, regardless of gender, are viewed as mentors. To others they, regardless of gender, are viewed more like tormentors. The difference is trust -- mutual trust.

To trust is to rely on the character of someone. To trust is to place confidence in the ability of someone. To trust is to depend on the strength of someone. To trust is to believe in the truthfulness of someone. To trust is to have hope in someone. To trust is to have faith. Thus to be a mentor is to be a trusted guide -- a teacher whom we trust and who also trust us. To have a mentor or role model is to in the presence of an invisible trustee.

I guess, in a way, I've been talking about having an invisible company of women in my presence. In this issue, Miriam Schapiro refers to an "invisible man." She also talks about her heroines, brilliant women omitted from history, and being a role model to others.

We have looked at the articles in this issue as being about role models in a very broad sense. The structure of a discipline becomes a model for learning about art and culture through simulation; the life and style of an artist becomes an inspiration for student works; and the stitchery and fiber techniques of traditional women's work are eagerly embraced by students, regardless of gender. Just as we appropriate the style of dress of our popular role models, so do many of the projects in this issue involve students in appropriating the style of the artists they study and admire. The articles also illustrate the quality of work that can result when student/teacher relationships are grounded in trust.
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Title Annotation:the influence of women on a man's life
Author:Katter, Eldon
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Mar 1, 1998
Previous Article:Picasso's One-Liners.
Next Article:One for all and all four women.

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