A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a teacher’s patience and guidance can be more valuable than gold!
The fundamentals of our childhood education at New Albany were the same as any other school of the time. Reading, writing, arithmetic … they’re a universal constant every child must learn. Playing sports afforded quite a few kids the opportunity to train their bodies as rigorously as they were training their minds however, the kids that weren’t that good at sports or simply weren’t interested in sports, had to find other disciplines to pursue.
I knew from the age of 6 that I wanted to become an artist. That’s all there was to it. There was never a doubt in my mind, but I had no idea how to go about attaining that goal. Wonderful art teachers like Marianne Ballenger and Jan Hale helped me find the beginnings of that path, although I fought them every step of the way.
I didn’t want to learn to draw train tracks and telephone poles vanishing in perspective! I didn’t care about some guy called Picasso that painted weird subjects and had a thing about blue! I didn’t want to draw from life! … I just wanted to draw superheroes! Bringing my mind and magic pencils to bear, Captain America and Batman were going to save the day and I was going to be the guy who drew them! That’s all that mattered … or so I thought at the time.
Thankfully the patience and insight of Mrs. Ballenger and Mrs. Hale outlasted my stubborn streak.Slowly but surely I began to appreciate what they were trying to tell me and found I could apply that knowledge to the things I thought were most important … even in my world of capes, tights and super powers. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? You’ve made up your mind and formulated your opinion and don’t want to hear any facts that might dissuade you from your quest!
Then you realize they’re right and you haven’t paid enough attention … and that’s when the real learning process blossoms! The only place you can go from there is up, up and away!
These two talented art teachers may not have always understood my world or my artwork, but like my parents they were incredibly supportive and challenged me to surpass my previous efforts whenever possible! With this new confidence, I began to see the world in a whole new way … vivid colors, shades of gray, and shapes and textures found in Nature that I hadn’t seen before. I began to look for patterns and harmony in the most basic elements of architecture and landscape … the more I found the more I wanted!
To me, this is what great teaching is all about! Not changing young minds and talent, but challenging kids to find their greatest potential and to embrace it. To let it mold and shape them into something more dynamic than they could ever dream possible! I owe a world of gratitude to teachers like Marianne Ballenger and Jan Hale for my wake up call to the world of Art!
Dedicated teachers of this caliber started me on a journey I’ve enjoyed for over 30 years, and there’s really no end in sight! Because of their confidence in my work, I’m now illustrating children’s books … a dream I’ve had all my life! Check it out: cucciakidsbooks.com. Who knows what’s next? In the meantime, I think I’ll let my pencils guide the way!
Tradition ran deep in the small farming community of New Albany, Ohio. I always thought that some things would never change. I would start out by driving to school with my sister, who drove an old Oldsmobile. We would find a parking spot in big rocks amongst the outer rusty cars and pick up trucks, and make our way into the school. The school stood strong like a big steel barn in the middle of town. A large cut out of our eagle mascot was bolted to the side, for everyone to see. Our mom an dad attended this same school, years ago. We would go from class to class with the sons and daughters of our parents generation. Most of our classes were taught by the same teachers of thirty years ago. Everybody knew everyone.
Physical education was my favorite, because we got to play baseball on the same field our fathers did. Dad would always tell me about the home runs he used to hit there. After the school was over,we would go home, and await the evening’s football game. I would pass my time playing in the yard, all the while enjoying the natural silence of country living. Occasionally a car would pass, it was an odd occurrence not to know who it was.
Later on that night ever one would file into the line at the ticket booth, for the home game Parents and grandparents, New Albany alumni, nested in the bleachers. All of the kids played in the grass be hind them, dreaming of being cheerleaders and football stars. The volunteer fire department, along with few local police officers, kept us in line Our heroes the home team would run from the locker room. We would slap them on the shoulder pads, and would wish them good luck. After about a half hour of cheering and yelling at the referee, halftime was here.
The high school history teacher manned the grill, brats and hot dogs, while the band played. After a good ribbing by the coach the team came back to win it, and the victory bell rang. If we only knew that times like that would soon be no more. It seemed like over night a dark cloud of change rained on our parade of tradition.
Acre after acre of fields were covered with the ugly sight of brick faced mansions, that all seemed to look the same. These mansions were inhabited with minds that paid no attention to tradition, and only wanted change, to suit their selfish souls. When enough homes were built , the democracy swayed, not to the few farmers, but to many new comers. Our once towering school was leveled to the ground, along with the old ball fields. B.M.W.s and Lexus’s took the place of old cars an pick up trucks,in the parking lots.The natural silence of country living is drowned out, by the hum of tires on the freeway nearby.
Soon overwhelming taxes would drive out the property owners, and developments would take their place. I have been out of school for years now, and nothing seems the same. Not long ago the last remaining symbol of what used to be, was taken from us. The towns feed mill, who tried to keep up with change, closed their doors for good the mill was situated in the center of town an often stood as a landmark for those who passed by.
A ounce calm country town is now a bustling metropolis. What was at one time a two lane road is now a six lane highway. Most of the old folks have moved away, to places that resemble what used to be. A very small number of people remain, some even try to fit in. Small towns just like ours are constantly being overwhelmed by money, and progress.
Sometimes I run into people I used to know, and share memories of the past. Its good to know sometimes I am not alone. Sometimes when I am out in the country, I see glimmer of lights in the distance. The glimmer of lights is football field and I go back in time. Times were a lot different back then.
I have been hardened by my experiences. We will always endure change, and traditions will always become broken. I will always at all cost do anything to keep tradition alive. Without tradition we have no memories or nothing to pass on to generations yet to come.