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Emotional Education

Growing Up with Art


The first of two UC application prompts reads, “Describe the world you come from-for example, your family, community or school-and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.” Vague, no?

A few months ago I began writing my answer. It was about art. My parents were both at one time individual artists, and although my dad is no longer an artist, he is now the director of a history and art museum, and a frequent gallery-goer. I thought the essay process would be quick. I thought it would be easy. Write about how the art environment I grew up in affected my goals and the way I think. Nice. I will be finished in a day. Ha.

Maren Schiffer

It proved to be-challenging. I wrote at least four different opening paragraphs, pretending each was more successful than its predecessor. In reality, they were all equally stagnant. Some were amusing, and one was direct, but none of them were truly going anywhere with those first opening sentences.

That was rough to admit. Embarrassing, even. How could I be secure in knowing art has influenced me, yet not be able to pinpoint how?

This morning I read an article by New York Times columnist David Brooks and found an answer. He talked about the second education that we seem not to pay close attention to, one of emotion. He focused on the role of Bruce Springsteen in his own second education.

I read his words fondly. My parents provided me with the foundation of my second education. Visual art began it all, and exposure to music and literature were a big part of it as well.

There are some moments when things stop. Nothing whizzes before your eyes and memories don’t cloud your mind-these are simple moments. Things are still while you comprehend an emotion, an idea, a lesson that someone has provided for you.

I recall being five years old, mesmerized with one painting in a gallery and trying to discover why I was, and why the man in the painting was so sad. I recall visiting a museum with my dad two years ago and learning about Picasso’s use of perspective. Then there are all the experiences in between these two, all pushing me toward greater growth and greater understanding.

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