Week #84 – What is Your Art? (Dedicated to Phil Hirlemann)

Made possible by Phil Hirlemann (photo credits: Grace Church)

Memories…made possible by Phil Hirlemann                   (photo credits: Grace Church)

Week #84 – What is Your Art? (Dedicated to Phil Hirlemann)

We lost two great artists this week: one, a pop icon and musical genius recognized world-wide for his unique vision and creative expression; the other, a local art/photography teacher who touched thousands of lives by going above and beyond the classroom for his students.

The first, of course, is Prince.

The second, is Phil Hirlemann.  For those of you who don’t know who this is — he was the art and photography teacher at my local high school for over 25 years.  My Facebook feed was immediately flooded with personal accounts of how Mr. Hirlemann impacted the individual lives of his students — sometimes decades after they graduated!

Over and over again, the same themes are repeated:

  • How he cared for his students
  • Believed in their individual abilities
  • Made everyone feel equal
  • Encouraged art as an outlet (for otherwise tied up and confused teenagers)
  • Introduced us to other things like music and cars
  • And most important — created an environment where high schoolers felt free to express themselves and be heard

He did this all through ceramics, painting, photography, screen printing, drawing…

…otherwise known as ART.

My personal testimony is not that exciting or nearly as personal.  It wasn’t until AFTER I graduated that I had my opportunity to interact with Mr. Hirlemann — and it wouldn’t be until quite a few years later that I would realize the importance of his contribution.

Mr. Hirlemann loaned me (probably against the rules) the camera and lens that I used to photograph Rob’s senior high school football games.  Every Friday I would pick up the equipment — and every Monday morning I’d return it.  That year, I photographed every single one of Rob’s games.  But it wasn’t until Rob died that it hit home how important those photographs were to him, to his classmates…and now to me.

At a time when art and music are being cut from school carricula — it’s worth looking at the impact they have on our lives long term.  Most other subjects require us to study someone else’s accomplishments or genius.  Art gives us the unique opportunity to look inside and get in touch with our own vision, our own voice.

What students learn in art class is self-expression, the ability to create and communicate OUR unique vision to the world.  

The ability to express ourselves fully, and be heard — even if it’s two decades later!

Your Happyness Challenge for the week ahead: “What is Your Art?”  Do you have a teacher or mentor who believed in you, who encouraged you, who got you in touch with your art?  Be grateful — and find a way to thank them this week.  You may not be able to track him/her down directly — but by expressing yourself, by sharing your art with others, by encouraging someone else, or spreading happyness — you honor them and celebrate their contribution to your life.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Hirlemann…not just the ones you created with us in the classroom, but also the ones you taught us to create for ourselves as adults!

Spread Happyness — tell us about your art in the comments!

4/22/16 by Grace Church
© Grace Church

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