Everyday I pick my daughter Charlotte up from NOCCA, a special school for kids who are interested in the arts. When I say ‘interested’ I really mean ‘completely dedicated and obsessed’ with arts. You may have heard of some of NOCCA’s graduates: Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr., Terence Blanchard, and Nicholas Payton. And those are just the famous musicians.
My daughter started out studying visual arts but then switched to costume design. So the other day we’re driving along and I overhear her conversation with a friend from NOCCA: “say, did I tell you I saw one of Banksy’s pictures? Can you BELIEVE it?! Yeah, it’s somewhere on Freret street. I was so excited when I saw it!”
When she finished talking on the phone I asked her who Banksy was. She told me quietly (expecting that I wouldn’t ‘get it’) that he was a street artist from the UK. She said he painted graffitti, and he had recently come to New Orleans, and so she was keeping an eye out for his work. I thought to myself ‘how good could a graffitti artist be if they were forced to paint surreptitiously and then face the likelihood of having their work painted over again?’
I didn’t want to cling to an assumption so I decided to continue the conversation to see what else I could find out about Banksy. “How did you know that he came to New Orleans,” I asked? Charlotte replied evenly “Oh, he has a website.” Apparently, one of the NOCCA students noticed that he had come to New Orleans and then told the other students, most of whom knew who he was. Charlotte could sense the next question and answered it before I could ask, “if you want to find the website you just google his name: B A N K S Y.”
And I did. The home page is interesting, but the page that showcases his work in New Orleans blew me away. If you examine his work take time to read the notes that appear with a few of the panels. This man is not painting graffitti; he’s painting compelling social commentary that most people would completely miss as they passed by it. I probably would have missed it if Charlotte hadn’t tuned me in. So, you could say that we’re both the beneficiaries of NOCCA’s unconventional educational approach.
In most schools the arts are ignored or, at best, served up as trivia. But a proper education in art changes the way you see things. Frankly, a proper education changes the way you see things. Most people don’t get a proper education, and most of the time they have no idea because they live inside of a small idea of the world rather than in the world itself.
The typical educator in our culture would look at Banksy’s art, label it graffitti and then arrange to have it painted over. What do you think they do to our children?