Sunday, February 3, 2008

Artists in Train-ing

Thursday, I was headed to the store to get some groceries for the weekend. I came to a railroad track and all of a sudden the bars go down the lights start flashing red indicating that we will have to stop and wait for the train. I usually hate this whole procedure because instead of coming up to the tracks just as the train is going to start his crossing, I happen upon it in the middle and I'm usually in a rush thinking, "How long is this going to take?"

Well, it was actually quite neat to behold the power of the train as it blew its whistle three times and rushed across the tracks with such power. This particular train was hauling box cars full of cars and trucks. I couldn't help but notice all of the graffiti on the sides of most of the train cars. Words that really didn't mean anything to me, but were obviously important enough to someone, in some location to record them to be displayed across the US.

My first reaction to something like that is generally disgust, "I can't believe that these punks would deface this train. It's not their property, it'll cost money to clean it off, etc." Then I started to admire some of the art work and the talent it must've taken to write something in bubble letters (you remember that from junior high--we all had a girlfriend that was talented at this type of writing) with shading and blending as the letters grew into words. I don't know that they ever do clean off the graffiti that makes its way onto the sides of these trains.

My thoughts then went in a different direction, "I wouldn't even know where to go to find a parked train and write on it." I have only been to one train "station" to pick-up my cousin. It was seriously scary and I sat in my locked car and hoped that she had made it without incident. Funny, how I still think about train robberies and wild west happenings in these modern days. The fact is that this "station" was merely a plexiglass booth which had also been vandalized.

Now, I'm not one to condone defacement of property. Trust me, if someone wrote on the side of my car, I'd be irate, but I have to wonder about the culture of those who do this sort of thing. Perhaps we should have surveliance cameras around and start figuring out who these kids are and if they could offer something positive to the world instead of destroying property.

Think about it. The NBA & NFL are full of men who, without their incredible athletic prowess, would often find themselves living in low income housing without any chance of attending college. Because of their ability with a ball, they have college educations (not always completed, but they were able to go!) and money beyond their wildest dreams. What if we were to round up some of these train painters and send them to art schools and expose them to interpretation of various art periods and teach them technique? How would we change lives? How would we improve their situations?

I don't know, it's really not a pratical solution, but I just wonder. I grew up in a house where I never had to worry about feeling safe or well fed or clothed. My kids are growing up the same way. I always used to think, "Why don't people just save their money and apply themselves? There are scholarships and opportunities out there for each of us." I don't think I'm that idealistic anymore. I do think that hard work will always open doors, but I don't think we're all coming from the same playing field. What about those who grow up abused, neglected, raising their own siblings because of absentee parents, homes where there is no food or books or love?

I recently read "Nickel and Dimed on (not) getting by in America" and it was really eye-opening to me. The author, who grew up middle class, decided to leave her current situation and live as a minimum wage worker in various locations across the US. She admits that she could never truly know what it's like because she chose to do this where the people who live it day to day don't know any different. However, it was interesting to see how this class have to get by. Many live in hotels where their daily charge is an exorbitant fee. You would think--get an apartment and save lots of money of course! But, what if you can't save up to put down a deposit because you're already paying this huge amount to live where you're currently living? What about taking time off? You can't because you have to work to have the money for rent. What if you get sick? You can't see a doctor because that too would involve taking time off to get to a doctor and whom you can't afford anyway. A very sad cycle. Very informative as well.

For me, it's important to remember, that I don't know everything about a situation. I don't know motivations and backgrounds which all play into making a person choose the way they did. I can only offer my own support and help and be grateful I come from a strong family myself.


Jess said...

Excellent idea, the offering of art scholarships to train "artists." (No, I'm not be sarcastic!) The government gives massive grants each year to people who make incredibly poor choices; why not give grants to those who show some merit but are boxed in by others' choices? Kids graffiting trains are not the ones growing up in upper-middle class homes; instead they're the gang bangers trying to survive another day and prove themselves by tagging private property. Why NOT "arrest" them, ask them to make recompense to the train company by repainting over their "art," and then offer them the opportunity to be schooled in something for which they have already proved they are adept: art. There are those who would decline the offer, of course, and after recompense to the train company, can be released of further penalty and sent on their way, but there are also those who would accept -- or whose parents would strongly encourage them to accept -- and could make something of themselves, perhaps finding that drafting is more their style and studying architecture, or deciding on gallery work as an option, or discovering art restoration...anyway, I think this idea has great merit. I wonder if psychologists would be necessary to contemplate the possibility of any one individual's "free ride" for school posing problems or going awry, but...details, details. Hm. I like it, Audrey; good call! This could become a political blog any day now!

(By the way, what do you think of Guiliani dropping out to support McCain? And Edwards not supporting anyone? Just wondering...)

Zim Family said...

You offer such amazing perspective. The people that surround themselves around you are seriously lucky!!

wackywilsons said...

I love how analytical you are...that is why your blog is so insightful to read....

How you came up with all of that from a train crossing? Good for you! you ought to write a book, or just publish your blog:)

I too am grateful for our financial security, I would be a terrible artist if we had to depend on it!