Artist, author have impact on schools

Mothers: A novelist and a painter are instrumental in a school board decision to emphasize electives.

February 28, 2002|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Terra Snider and Carolyn Horan are known locally as the Severna Park moms who took on the county school board and won.

Their advocacy of a curriculum offering middle-schoolers full access to art, music, physical education and other electives led the state school board to reject the county's language-arts program. That 13 of 19 county middle schools have adopted a seven-period day in which a full slate of electives might be offered results, in no small part, from their efforts.

Though Snider and Lyons have spent countless hours fighting bureaucrats on behalf of the Coalition for Balanced Excellence in Education, the grass-roots organization they founded to harness opposition to the county plan, both have continued to work at their crafts.

Horan's works have been shown locally and in exhibits and museums in New York City, Greece, Turkey and Israel. Her formidable skills as a watercolorist are on display through March 14 at the Gormley Gallery on the campus of Baltimore's College of Notre Dame. The gallery, in Fourier Hall on the school's North Charles Street campus, is presenting Horan's paintings with in tandem with the works of two other artists in an exhibit called TriCrotica: Scenes from a Triple Heartbeat.

The power of nature, manifested especially in the sinuous forms of trees emanating out of the strong earth, is a theme animating the artist's vision in works such as Breaking Away and Live Cedar II.

"This is the emotive part of my painting," Horan says of the evocative, almost human shapes of nature that dominate her images. "Trees symbolize the solidity and endurance of the natural world, and that is something that really speaks to me."

That theme of nature's strong, robust limbs has taken on added significance for the 44-year-old artist over the past decade and a half, as she has fought the effects of multiple sclerosis.

"The disease has affected my work," she says. "I can't stand at an easel for long, which is the physical reason I'm drawn to watercolors. But it's also taught me to stop making excuses, to do my best work and to avoid creating my own obstacles."

That tenacity has found its way into Horan's advocacy for arts education.

"I come from a family of teachers," she says, "and know that the sooner kids are introduced to something like art, the longer it can play a great role in their lives. Utilizing those skills and interests becomes a lifelong process that brings lifelong joy."

Her like-minded associate, Snider, recently published her first novel, Time's Fool. She echoes Horan's passion for multifaceted educational experiences.

A Yale graduate who earned her doctorate in the history of science and medicine from the University of Chicago, Snider has written numerous books on health and education issues for Harvard University Press and other publishing houses.

"But I've been writing fiction since I was able to write anything," she says, "and this novel is the most fulfilling thing I've ever worked on."

Time's Fool was published by Xlibris under Snider's maiden name, Terra Diane Ziporyn. It capitalizes on her research on early-20th-century medical practices and on life in the marginal communities of the mid-1800s.

Told through multigenerational diary entries, the story focuses on Dr. Galton Morrow, a Boston physician and expert on the venereal diseases that were cutting such a sad and destructive swath through American urban life a century ago.

As he dispenses enlightened care, his attention is riveted on the diaries left by his mother and father, who conceived him amid the communal sexuality of the Oneida Colony, a true-to-life 19th-century experiment in Christian socialism in upstate New York.

A crisis of the spirit - not to mention some temptations of the flesh - come the doctor's way as he unravels the tangled web of his biological origins.

"What I loved most about writing this," Snider says, "is that the story brought together so many of the interests I've had in my life. My scientific and medical background, my historical research, my love of music - I was able to work all of them into the book."

In life, literature - and, yes, a middle school curriculum - there is no substitute for breadth of experience, the author concludes.

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