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  • Renata Abbade

The Art of Being Human

By Renata Abbade

Art is an essential part of the Waldorf Curriculum. Ask a teacher, and she will give you her perspective on why we emphasize art.

I am an artist, I have always been one, even though it was, and sometimes it still is, awkward to embrace the title. Image maker or visual communicator often seemed more fitting. I don’t paint much, or even consider myself a good painter. I currently don’t sell my art. In fact, I’ve rarely sold my art as a product. I don’t have a gallerist, and my work is not on display anywhere at the moment.

What makes an artist? I’ve had to define, multiple times over, what the indicators are that allow me to call myself an artist.

Yes, I have been fortunate to receive recognition and praise for my creativity, reaching great heights as an artist, and truly embodying the title. I have danced at Lollapalooza, performed at the Whitney Biennial, worked with traditional lacemaking communities for the Museum of Brazilian Craft, and collaborated on pieces sold at the Museum of Modern Art of Bogotá. These were just tiny fragments in my lifelong trajectory on the art of being a human on this planet.

How could I be an artist if I’m working as the Interim Administrator at a Waldorf school in the small town of Calpella? I’ve had to reflect on this to be able to do my job, and yet remain connected to my identity.

Aristotle said: “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” My artistic work is, and has always been about reflection - of self, or any other form. Being an artist, to me, means trusting an inner vision that nobody else can see. The creation is the reflection. It can be presented in any medium, or not at all. That’s how I describe my art.

Bic-blue Ball-pen Self-portrait | ©Renata Abbade 2022

In the time I have been here, I’ve had to establish a living relationship with each individual, and with the natural impulses existing within the school as an organism. There was a lot of reflection involved in that. My primary responsibility has been to deeply listen, filter, organize information, figure out the best way to share it and act as a conduit for that exchange. My job as WSMC’s Administrator is to bear witness to the life of the school and to help make it visible to others. That’s where I have applied my artistic talents.

I must be able to express that which I see (outward and inwardly) with all constituents of our school community - faculty, board, students, and parents. My design skills came in handy in creating bridges and benches. I’ve become a sense organ for the school - with vision, listening, tact, and intuition - perceiving the next steps in the growth and development of the school. I’ve maintained that the quality of our communications must reflect the quality of the education we provide.

Last September Emily Rose asked me to create a new poster for the Enchanted Pumpkin Path, for which I gladly volunteered. Before I applied for this position, I sat down with her to ask some questions, and I mentioned that I would need to be able to express my creativity if I was to do this job, and she said “You can create every poster!” - and that I did! So here is a brief selection of the images I've created for the Waldorf School of Mendocino County since November 2023:

Renata designed all the posters and marketing images for WSMC in 2023-24

Rudolph Steiner wrote in the early 1900s that “Waldorf school education is not a pedagogical system but an art - the art of awakening what is actually there within the human being.” WSMC’s students develop their creativity, imagination, and aesthetic sense through artistic expression, deepening their understanding of our human and spiritual nature. In our Waldorf classrooms, we teach academic subjects using art. This approach allows children to express their ideas, understand abstract concepts, remember history, and so much more.

We want our students to become successful contributing members of society. We are committed to nurturing multi-faceted individuals with a strong passion and a capacity for continuous learning. Self-fulfillment comes from developing creative thinking skills, flexibility and focus, emotional and relational intelligence, physical vitality, stamina and perseverance, and an uncanny love, appreciation, and sense of responsibility for the environment and for society. I cannot attest that every Waldorf alumnus identifies as an artist, though in essence, I can see that flame ignited in all our students. That fills me with joy and hope for the future.

As the interim administrator, I am happy to see how much I’ve grown as an artist. In reflecting on the past 7 months that I have worked at the Waldorf School of Mendocino County, and in trying to stay connected with my artistic self I realize how prolific I have been. I want to acknowledge and express my reverence to the Board and the Faculty for recognizing the artist in me as a valuable asset to the school. They encourage this in the students, and they have also chartered it in me. I am grateful for the freedom to create and express myself.

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