I first became acquainted with Corita Kent shortly after graduating from college with a Bachelor’s in Art Education and a K-12 art-teaching certificate. Someone gave me her book book Learning By Heart as a graduation present. I didn’t really understand her impact in the art world at that time. But I did understand the impact her way of teaching and inspiring young people as portrayed in this book and I wanted to be just like her. I would dip into the book from time to time for ideas and inspiration.
I came across her work again in 2009 while visiting Los Angeles. I visited the Cathedral Our Lady of the Angels and was delighted to see an exhibit of her serigraphs and watercolors. Upon my return out came the book and a review of all things Corita. Including her rules:
I try to abide by these, especially #7 and #9. But lately I’ve been thinking of another thing she said. “There is no art. We do everything as best we can.” She began saying this after extensive research of Indonesian and other Southeast Asian country languages where there is no word for art. There is create, make, design, draw. But no art. (I haven’t fact-checked that.)
But it reminds me of something that Nate Padavick said to my students once. “Make everything you do the best thing you’ve ever done.”
I kept thinking about all of this when I got the chance to see Someday is Now: The Art of Corita Kent at the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art. The show was originally organized by the Tang Museum in Saratoga Springs, just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from me, but I missed it there. Luckily, I was able to see the show while visiting my family. And it did not disappoint.
The highlight was a Cleveland-only viewing of the Beatitudes Banner that she made for the 1964 Worlds Fair. It is owned by the United Church of Christ National Offices which are located in Cleveland and features quotations from Pope John XXIII and President John F. Kennedy. Read more about this amazing piece here.
Spending time with the Beatitudes work as well as watching all the primary footage of Corita giving talks and working with her students highlighted the viewing of this show. But, I also brought my nieces and nephew with me. They immediately went to the activity that greeted us in the entry way. Perhaps one day I will write a critical review of the exhibit. Stay tuned.