What you can learn from others.

For the last two years I have been teaching a Gen. Ed. course called Introduction to Fine Arts. I team teach the course with the head of the dance program and the head of the art program. It's my favorite course to teach because it takes students who typically have little to no background in the arts and shows them how they relate to each other and how art is a window in the world around us. It challenges students to think about things like censorship, iconography, creativity, and the Why. Instead of a final exam we randomly assign students into groups of 3-4 and they have to create an original piece of art that answers the question "What is Art?". Some of them create videos, songs, collages, a smashed computer, and even paintings. Here's one project that now hangs in my office.

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It was created by three students, a international student from Pakistan, who is also muslim, a former marine who did two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a young woman from Kansas, who was majoring in theater tech and had travelled very little outside of this state. Three students that wouldn't typically end up working together, and they created this amazing piece of art. You can't see it from this picture but the theme of the painting was their stories. To no surprise they found the things they have in common and things that make them different, and instead of leaving those differences out they become part of the whole.

So how is this a lesson in leadership? Amazing things can happen when you're willing to work with people who feel differently from you, who think differently from you. They can challenge you, provoke you, and even teach you to be empathic about a situation you never realized; And sometimes, the result is an amazing piece of art.