Hillary Getz Finds Meaning in Art

By Susie Davidson

Advocate Correspondent

BOSTON - There has always been a fine line between the perception of art as entertainment or, rather, as a means by which to convey ideas and edify one's audience.

Certainly every culture has its unique antiquities and artifacts, which spell the history as well as the inner workings of the individual creaters. Artists of all genres have represented in their work a reflection of the Divine, a cathartic means of emotional release, a tribute to the age and epoch they lived in, and/or yes, even a way to make a living.

Hillary Getz of Brighton, 23, is one artist who takes things a step further. She aspires through her work to elevate the position of others, be it creative, social, educational or otherwise. She came to this viewpoint early on in her art school experience.

"I was excited," she recalls, "to enroll in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. I think I went in with a very romantic idea of what it meant to be an artist."

But she became disenchanted. "I think it was a reaction to the commercialized nature of art today. If I wasn't going to accept the value system that was being given to me, I had to realize what was my own. I began to ask myself, how could art be more meaningful?"

Getz' Fairfield, CT family background prepared her for this depth of caring and commitment. Her father, Steven, was a fundraiser for muscular dystrophy and Cerebral Palsy, and is a consultant who develops partnerships between nonprofits and corporations.

"He uses the power of the corporations to do good things. Some of his clients are the YWCA, the JCC, American Diabetes Association and City Harvest."

Her mother, Linda, Director of Occupational Health at Saint Vincent's Hospital, converted to Judaism when she was a child. "Last summer my father sent my sister and I to Israel," she says. "I know how much he wanted to go himself, but he sent us instead."

Back to art: "I love art for the process of creation, its ability to capture thoughts and emotions from hundreds of years ago and preserve them, and for the many uses art can serve.

Getz has volunteered as Art Director with Teen Voices, "a Boston-based magazine which publishes articles, poems, stories and artwork by teenage girls to give them a place for their voices to be heard." She served as mentor to two minority girls.

She also participated in the adolescent advocacy group Bikes Not Bombs's auction, transforming a 1950's bike into a dinosaur-type, rideable skeleton.

"We painted the whole thing metallic silver and named it Tetanus the Lockjaw Monster. It went for the highest bid in its price category, and the money went to the BNB programs."

Getz then enrolled in the Museums School's joint program with Tufts University to work toward certification as a K-12 art teacher. A junior, she will be student teaching at Brookline's Lincoln School next year.

Between restoring furniture, sewing clothes, making functional ceramic pieces and painting, her day gigs include substitute day care teaching in Quincy, home renovation and catering with Andrew's Kosher Catering.

"I see art education as an opportunity to teach students creative thinking and visual problem solving. Art honors different ways of seeing the same thing. It is such a subjective discipline by nature that it can give students the opportunity to learn to trust their own opinions.

"It is more necessary today then ever before. Children are bombarded with visual messages form the mass media. Rather then trying to censor everything, I think it's more effective to equip children with the skills to be critical of the things they are exposed to.

"Ultimately I would like to encourage my students to be creative, confident, questioners who can think for themselves. In a society that pushes the values system of consumerism and conformity, I hope my students, through art, will be able to understand themselves better and hold on to their own values. Art's value comes many times from its price tag and signature. I wanted to find better reasons to value art.

"I think sometimes I might be too idealistic," she notes, "but I would rather drive myself crazy holding on to my ideals than be complacent with something I can't believe in."