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Be bold for change, open to art

I was sitting in a local restaurant and filling in a crossword puzzle, my usual distraction from screaming kids and happy-birthday songs, when I came upon the following hint for a 5-letter word: “March 14, to math fans.” This is the kind of enigma that can cause sleepless nights for serious puzzle-solvers. Puzzle-makers, on the other hand, congratulate each other with a toast of cognac and fall into blissful sleep with broad smiles on their faces.

I started thinking, “What’s significant about March 14,” but nothing came to mind. Of course, Mardi Gras can fall on that date some years (not this time), but (A) that’s 9 letters, and (B) why would “Fat Tuesday” be significant to mathematicians? At some point, after my entrée had cooled to room temperature, the image “3 (March is the third month), 14” floated into my consciousness. Then it hit me, 3.14 is 3.14159...(ad infinitum) rounded down. And, of course, that’s the magic number (known as p or “PI” in geometry) that mathematicians must manipulate to make any calculation regarding circles or spheres.

When I got home, I fired up the computer and went online to find out if there is an actual celebration of PI DAY (5 letters), and (voilá!) there is. Because that date coincides with the birthday of Albert Einstein (who was a fairly well-known mathematician), there are a number of special activities (with free admission) at the Exploratorium on Pier 15 in San Francisco, including a complementary (a description of the factions that create a right angle) piece of pi(e) at 5:30 p.m.

While my monitor’s cursor lingered on the March section of Wikipedia, I perused other things about the month that might be of interest, and two items that may tickle the curiosity of Maderans jumped out of the dozens of entries: March is National Women’s History Month as well as Youth Art Month. And, there are special local activities associated with each.

Women’s History Month

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8, and its roots trace back to 1908, when 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York in order to muster support for better pay, a reasonable length for the work day, and the right to vote (which was not granted by Congress until 1920). Then, in 2011, President Barack Obama proclaimed March to be “Women’s History Month.”

Today, IWD is a worldwide event that celebrates the achievements of women in all spheres of life, while demanding gender equality. Many accomplishments by women have been neglected in our history. For example, Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler (known in Hollywood as Hedy Lamarr) developed a spread-spectrum technology which was originally intended to help ships control torpedoes, but eventually it became used for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth systems. Stephanie Kwolek synthesized fibers, known as liquid crystalline polymers, that lead to the invention of Kevlar, the material that is used in bulletproof vests. And Patricia Billings came up with a substitute for asbestos, called Geobond, a nontoxic and fireproof substance that is used in the construction industry.

This year’s theme is “Be Bold for Change,” perhaps urging women to emulate the courage of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist who risked her life to promote the idea that girls deserve an education equal to that of boys in her country. But, in the United States, women are entering college in greater numbers than men; they complete college degrees more often than their male colleagues; and they are accepted into graduate schools in greater numbers than male counterparts. Yet, there remains a pay gap by which women receive less remuneration than men for the same or equivalent work. IWD is intended to bring facts like these into social consciousness.

In Madera, the IWD activities will be held at the Pan-American Community Center, 703 Sherwood Way (675-2095), beginning at 10 a.m. today. The Madera County Arts Council (MCAC) has a mural, “Women of the World,” which is 40 feet long and 8 feet high, and the Arts Council would like to have displayed it for the event, but the non-profit organization needs funds to prepare the artwork and protect it from environmental damage. Those who are interested in assisting with this project can contact Rochelle Noblett at the MCAC, 661-7005.

Youth Art Month

March is also Youth Art Month, created in 1961 by the Arts and Creative Materials Institute, the parent organization of the Council for Art Education (CFAE). Many trade and professional organizations, corporations, and individuals have supported the efforts and successes of the program for more than half a century. In recent years, CFAE has administered national Youth Art Month and has encouraged funding for the activities.

Unfortunately, many people view art education as a “fringe” program. However, hundreds of studies have shown that students who are exposed to art develop greater self esteem as well as the ability to appreciate the work of others. They also do better in their other classes. CFAE states, “Our fast-changing environment will require that future leaders — today’s children — be creative and imaginative in problem-solving. These skills are learned best by students involved in art.”

As testament to this statement, the popular STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum in our leading colleges and universities is now being promoted as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics), recognizing the importance of art to all of the other endeavors. As former President Bill Clinton remarked, “American arts education enlivens our schools, opening children’s minds and awakening their senses to the human experience.”

Locally, the art of our students can be viewed at the annex to Circle Gallery in North Pointe Plaza (1653 North Schnoor Avenue). Their work encompasses a variety of media, and several of the pieces involve taking a photographic image and extending it to show the students’ understanding of perspective.

A reception will be held for our student artists on March 18 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Circle Gallery. While viewing works contributed by students in several rooms, visitors can also see the “Women of the World” mural (mentioned above) which is being stored in the same location.


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