Volunteer Spotlight: Jim Garrison

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1) How did you first get involved with AiA, and how have you remained involved over the years?

I first got involved when I was an art teacher at Crystal Springs Uplands School. I became friends with one of my students, who later came back after he graduated and helped me in my classes. His mom is actually the one who started Art in Action, and she asked me to become a board member. It was just a year or two before I retired and I thought I would have something to offer since I had a background in education as well as in art. 

I was on the board for 8-9 years, but once it became more and more formal, I started to volunteer at the office and I’ve been doing that ever since. Because of my background in art, I helped develop multiple lessons with the AIA team and also ran the newsletter. 

2) Why do you think arts education is important for kids?

Very great and important question! I taught at a school that was very college-oriented and kids were scrambling to get into great colleges so the academic pressure was very stressful for them. Our society is very focused on the intellect and the scientific method which is good. However, there is a whole other way of looking at the world. My students come back during reunions and would tell me that if they didn’t have the arts, they would go crazy from the academic side. I believe that arts are a wonderful balance to the intellect side and it’s important to develop both. 

 

3) How do you think having art as a child impacted your life?

Having art as a child has enriched my life a great deal. I’m interested in architecture and I actually designed and built my house. Right now, I’m re-doing our bathroom! I have just always liked to do things where you can physically make something. At the end of a project, you’ll have something that’s not just a conceptual, intellectual thing: it’s a physical object you can touch. 

4) What’s your most memorable volunteering experience with AiA? 

I particularly enjoyed working on a lesson inspired by Ruth Asawa. She’s a Japanese woman from San Francisco who did a lot of projects with weaving wire. The lesson itself was about weaving wire techniques and we developed a lesson where you would build the types of shapes she made. It’s a very memorable experience since there weren’t that many women artists and there weren’t too many people of different ethnicities so it was cool to work on something like that with AiA. 

 

5) Do you create art yourself? What is your current project, medium or inspiration?

My main medium is watercolor but I’ve also been doing a lot of stained glass recently!

6) Anything else to add about AiA, your experiences with art, the value of art, etc?

AiA is a really good program for kids and adults because it doesn’t require any expertise to teach, and the lessons are very straightforward and accessible. More than that, it gives a vocabulary and history to art. If you have that deep understanding of vocabulary and background, you can begin to appreciate and understand what makes something more attractive than something else. You will be able to talk about and analyze art pieces on a deeper level.