Vivian Kendall is a painter, a computer artist, and just retired from teaching art at Wa He Lut school in Olympia, Washington. This interview is concerned with her teaching career.
Vivian Kendall: "I tried within my role to be everything supportive for my students. One boy told me, 'I had a dream that you were my mother.' "
ElleCoyote: "How many years did you teach at Wa he Lut School?"
VK: "16 years … 1990-2006"
EC: "… You taught art, but what else?"
VK: "What else? Nothing. Life! I'm not a teacher; I'm an artist."
EC: "Ok, so what kinds of things did they learn from making art?"
VK: "I tried to have the projects be relevant to their lives - so general problem-solving and work-ethic, but also things like silkscreening T-shirts and using power tools.
My kids often had no fathers so no one taught them how to hammer in a nail.
Years ago, one of my students--whose mother was a drunk, father gone, many kids, different fathers, etc.--said to me, 'Can me and Ed come and live with you cause my mom will be happy with just the younger kids?'
I had to say, 'Well, the world doesn't work that way'; she said, 'I wish you were my mom.' "
VK: “We did complex projects when I did whole classes, like using good reference material make a black and white native design, that can then be copied onto colored paper, which we will use for a kind of clip-board thing we will make from wood, using wing nuts and power drills; so we covered a lot in one project.”
VK: “Or we would do a collage, scan it into computer, manipulate it and add text, print out and put in a CD thing as a CD cover.
I never taught anything but technique. I gave them materials and directed their questions to people who knew and were experts in their own culture.”
VK: "I used to apologise if I did something wrong. They were amazed.”
VK: “I love my kids.”
E: “Is there anything you would like to say to any of your students who may read this interview?”
E: “You said you love them, but do you have any words of wisdom for them?”
VK: “I did the best I could for them, but I wasn't always right. I believe in mentoring as the best way to teach and learn. In my room we were all just artists at different stages of development.”