Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Recess: Tagged Up

At our school the lunch room is open-air. We're in Southern California and, of course, it makes sense for the kids to eat outside, under a covered area, at tables with attached metal benches.

Unless we have torrential rain, when they stay inside their classrooms and teachers don't really get the break they need.

Unless we're in the throes of major wildfires, when smoke fills the air, ash rains down and the sun burns red through a sepia-toned light.

Unless any human threat were to advance on the schoolyard, and a lockdown were imposed. This has not happened during my time on the campus, but it has at another school nearby.

A few years ago a local artist offered her services to paint murals on the walls surrounding the lunch area. She started with light sketches and moved on to black outlines before painting with bright colors.

On seeing the painted black outlines, a six-year-old boy ran to the principal, yelling, "We've been tagged...over there...our school is tagged!"

She patiently took him by the hand, walked him to the drawings and explained that what was actually happening in our schoolyard was a lovely thing called mural art, not renegade graffiti.

While we now acknowledge that graffiti is often stirring and artistic, I hope our neighborhood artist was able to broaden the boy's definition of what art can be.

I don't know if that child was relieved or disappointed that we hadn't been tagged, but I do know that his lunches became brighter, with a cow, and baskets of fruits and vegetables, and children reading on a bucolic meadow to look at.

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