Art Lesson

By Joanne Lozar Glenn

July 18, 2016

Art Lesson

They saved it for Fridays. Every teacher had the same projects. Fall: iron leaves between waxed paper. Winter: chalk snow scenes on black construction paper. Spring: draw daffodils.

Except for Miss Malik. She was young, pretty, and not a nun.

“Bring lots of newspapers and a light bulb for Art this week,” she told us one day. So that night, after changing my uniform and before memorizing my Baltimore catechism, I made sure to tuck the supplies into my schoolbag. I liked Miss Malik. She’d put together a class poetry book and included my poem.

First Friday: We spread oilcloth on desktops to keep them clean, then layered each light bulb with strip after strip of hand-dipped newspaper soaked in wheat paste. Its slimy crust thickened our fingers till they could hardly move.

Second Friday: We painted the bulbs with tempera and set them on the windowsill to dry.

Third and final Friday: The big day. We were to smash the bulb against our desks until we heard the glass break.

“This is a maraca,” Miss Malik told us. “In Mexico, it’s used to make music.”

It was the ‘60s, and all we knew of Mexico was bandits wearing big sombreros in black-and-white TV Westerns. Miss Malik’s lesson let us glimpse another world.

And she’d taught us that something broken—even when it was broken on purpose, deeply, where no one could see—could still sing.
Comments (11) - Post a Comment
An unusual metaphor. Thank you.
Andrea Fisk Rotterman at 8:49am EDT - July 18, 2016
Whoa! I was so curious about what this art project was leading toward--what a surprise! Then there is the breaking down of stereotypes and that last sentence -- it's so insightful. Thank you!
Sue Repko at 9:03am EDT - July 18, 2016
Nice story with vivid, compelling images. I couldn't wait to find out the art project--so satisfying.
Debbie Hagan at 9:11am EDT - July 18, 2016
Wonderful! Terrific teacher. . . and student.
Linda Stallman Gibson at 10:49am EDT - July 18, 2016
A satisfying read. Thank you!
Ola at 12:17pm EDT - July 20, 2016
Love it!
Joan Zimmermann at 12:11pm EDT - July 21, 2016
How lovely and evocative, showing that few words can say much.
Barbara Trainin Blank at 8:17am EDT - July 22, 2016
The whole piece is a great read, but that last line really "sings." It takes the piece to a place I didn't expect. Loved it.
Jody Brady at 8:29am EDT - July 22, 2016
Attention-getting, build-up, and great ending in such few words. Well done.
Bobbie Troy at 11:02am EDT - July 22, 2016
This is wonderful! Captures, among other things, the joy and meaning of art classes!
Susan Land at 12:17pm EDT - July 23, 2016
Thank you all for reading this piece and taking the time to leave comments. I truly appreciate it!
Joanne at 12:21am EDT - September 27, 2016


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