For decades I am working in art education. And I think I am rather good at it. Within the Dutch circumstances, I am convinced that I come up with original ideas and innovative projects. Yes, you are right, I am pretty arrogant. And I realize it.
When I got my invitation to attend the Vilnius conference, I had to think about my arrogance. I decided that the only way in which that meeting could contribute to my personal development was to leave my arrogance at home. And I can assure you, that’s not easy for me. My intention was to be as open as possible. Not to profile my (fantastic) views on art education, but to listen to others, hoping that after the conference I have to re-invent my views on art and education. I was hoping for an earthquake that would damage my arrogance without totally destroying my self-confidence.
Now I’m back in the Netherlands and I have to draw the conclusions. Did the conference succeed in reaching my personal goals? No, I don’t think so. Is it because my arrogance was still hiding in my suitcase? I am not sure…maybe.
The meeting started with Paul Collard. In his eloquent lecture he formulated his views on art education and the role of creativity in society. Although I would never have found the words the way he did, I almost totally agreed on what he said. He perfectly stated the things, which I felt (unconsciously) inside. That was not good beginning for my struggle against my arrogance.
In the corridors of the conference I talked to a lot of participants. What were these talks about? They were like this:
“Where are you from?” “What do you do?” “What is the situation in your country” “What is your contribution tot art education?” “Oh well… in my country…”
I found it very interesting to hear about all those different situations, to talk with a lot of practitioners. But did those conversations changed my views? No. In fact, often I had a hard time to keep listening and to restrain myself from the tendency to profile my projects and my fabulous views on art education.
I attended three fantastic workshops during the conference. I enjoyed all three of them, just because they were wonderful workshops. They gave me some new ideas about ways of doing things that I can use in the course I give at home. That’s fine, but that is not what I came for. Did the evaluations of the workshops shake the foundation on my convictions? No, they didn’t give me the discussions I hoped for.
And then at the end of the conference there was ‘open space’. Yes! I was in two groups with fierce discussions, open-minded, there was brainstorming together, I had to relate to other personal views, conclusions were drawn and provocative statements were made. I loved it. Because my mind had to accelerate on top speed, because I was forced to put my views on the table and to compare and relate them tot other views. My arrogance was shaking and I didn’t mind at all. This was what I came for. It was a pity that we only could put the questions and conclusions on paper and that there was no follow up; at least not during this conference.
In the airplane back home, I saw that little pocket in my suitcase, which I tried not to open in Lithuania. I opened it and yes, inside was still a lot of arrogance. In spite of all my efforts, I didn’t completely succeed in leaving it at home. But then I thought: “What would I do to make the next conference a success for arrogant people like me?” Because there came no answer in my mind, all of a sudden my arrogance shrank back in the suitcase and I felt humble.
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