February 10, 2023: Filmed by Douglas Magnus
The students of Bruner Middle School, in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, tapped into George Rodrigue and Life in their collaborative mural. They claimed the art as their own, with imaginative potential and creative realities. “There is a spiritual quality to blue,” said George, as I wrote his words in my journal. “The dark night sky affects my mood and my paintings, replacing the earthy greens and browns of my early works. As I grow older, my mind expands. I suspend reality on my canvas with greater confidence, exploring not just the trees and grass, but also the mysterious and the mystical.” My sister Heather and I attended Bruner now 40ish years ago. Our memories, like those of many as I now realize, are of adolescent insecurities and shyness and a constant battle with failure and wanting to please and to be liked. And to be loved. During a tour of Okaloosa County schools, organized and sponsored by the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation, we spent most of this week with middle school students. The battle remains. And yet, while engaging with original paintings by Rodrigue and Magnus, they spoke up; they moved closer to the front; they shared; they stayed after class; and they made this amazing artwork. For the young people, in case you need to hear this, know that your paintings are brilliant and personal and affected us deeply. Middle school is tough, for everyone involved, but especially the students. Things will change. They always do. And your JOY, whenever you need it, is always there, and waiting, inside you.
Thank you to the wonderful students of Bruner Middle School and especially to their amazing teacher, Neslihan Celic-George.