Thursday, November 29, 2012

Change…frustrating yet necessary

Due to a rather nasty fall a couple of weeks ago (primary reason there hasn’t been a post for the past two weeks), I have been in a rather philosophical state of mind. Dwelling on the bigger picture if you will. Perhaps if this fall occurred when I was in my 20s it would not have had quite the effect on me as it does 30 years later, but, as is said, with age comes wisdom—or something like that. Whether this applies to me or not others will have to weigh in, but I do know that as I grow older, mortality looms large and the quest for wisdom more immediate.

I wasn’t going to write about this until I happened across a box titled “Iowa Artists” at the local library. In it were numerous small scrapbooks with four devoted to Grant Wood. The gray pages of these scrapbooks were cracked and the edges were flaking. Glued to these well-worn sheets were yellowed newspaper clippings spanning some 50 years, beginning in the 1930s. All were riveting (I love reading old newspapers) but one in particular caught my eye. It was an interview with Wood published in the Iowa City Press Citizen. The year was 1938.

At the time, Wood was a professor at the University of Iowa and the focus was why, with his fame as an artist firmly established, did he bother teaching. An excerpt of the article is as follows:

“Professor Wood was born in Iowa, and he knows Iowa. For four years he has been a professor at the University if Iowa. He paints Iowa because it is what he knows, and he teaches at the university, ‘for what I can get out of it.’”

“He does not mean the money. He gets something more important than money from teaching.

‘No artist,’ says Professor Wood, ‘can afford to lose contact with life. These students are the changing generation. If great changes are coming, they will live through them.

‘If I can maintain contact with the changing generation, I shall be able to change too. That’s the real reason I like teaching.’”

The article goes on and talks about what Wood was currently doing with his art, his illustrations in Sinclair Lewis’ “Main Street,” and how he got his sister to pose for “American Gothic,” all boilerplate stuff. So I went back to his thoughts about teaching and realized that his words were analogous with life. Words to live by, if you will.

Wood used teaching to stay connected with life. From my current philosophical point of view, even though I am not a teacher, I also should strive to connect with life, to stay in touch with the younger generation, or, as Wood puts it, the “changing generation.” Because if I stay in touch with those who are changing, I too can change. Survival of the fittest might apply here.

This, however, is not easy. We are in the age of instant access to information, the intense interest on sharing life with various Facebook “friends” and Twittering every random thought on any subject, everything I find unnecessary. But this is the face of the future. For many of us of a certain age this is hard to accept—at least it is for me. I really have no desire to post to my “friends” that I just had a Diet Coke, or my current status is “head stills hurts from fall.” But just because I am not going to be an active part of it doesn’t mean I should dismiss it. This is not only the future but the present. It’s baffling at times, but I can remember when my parents thought rock ‘n roll was a passing phase. That didn’t work out for so well for them.

I am going to do my best to adapt Wood’s words to the remainder of my life. Let’s hope I am wise enough to do so.

Upcoming attractions at the American Gothic House Center:

Dec. 1 – 14 Gingerbread House Display. Various Gingerbread Houses built by area residents on exhibit at the Center.

Dec. 8 Gingerbread House decorating from 1 to 4 p.m. An annual  tradition where volunteers help children of all ages construct their own Gingerbread House.

Dec. 7 – 9 Christmas in Eldon. Eldon had numerous holiday activities planned for the weekend including the “Christmas in Wanderland” at the McHaffey Opera House where over 100 Christmas trees are on display decorated by area residents. The railroad depot will be holding an open house where the lobby and outside area will be adorned with the holiday spirit. Other activities include a noon lunch and a Boy Scout soup supper. Click here for the schedule of events.

Brian Chambers
Media Coordinator
American Gothic House Center

The American Gothic House Center strives to become financially independent through gift shop revenue, sponsorships, and by establishing an endowment fund. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to match the Iowa Cultural Trust Endowment Challenge Grant and will become endowment funds to support the Center's annual operations. As a subscriber to the weekly newsletter, you have already shown support for the American Gothic House Center. I invite you to strengthen your role in the valuable experience we provide the community by making a contribution to our fund drive. Click here to give your tax deductible gift, or head to our website for more information. Thank you to all who have donated so far!
        Our Mission: Integrating the puzzle pieces of American Gothic
300 American Gothic St | Eldon, IA 52554 | 641-652-3352 |

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