National Christmas Display Artist

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Local artist Robert Miley was selected by the White House to create ornaments for the National Christmas Display in Washington, D.C. The ornaments were created with the help of troubled and disadvantaged youth. Miley will discuss his work.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona Artbeat looks at artist Robert Miley, selected by the White House to create ornaments for the national Christmas display in Washington. Robert Miley joins us now to talk about how he had a lot of help with the project. Welcome to Arizona Horizon.

Robert Miley: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here, let's start with you, how were you selected to decorate trees in Washington?

Robert Miley: Carla Friedman with the Governor's office, of family faith and children, we did a project with them for team leaders, in the state, and she remembered what we did, and also got a call from Kim sung Lee, ok, asking out of the blue, would I be interested in doing it, as an artist.

Ted Simons: who is she?

Robert Miley: She's also working with the department.
Robert Miley: And I said, well, considering how this administration feels about restorative over punitive and how that's riffling through both sides of the aisle, I would be Honored.

Ted Simons: When you mentioned restorative over punitive we should mention that you have got -- is it release the fear?

Robert Miley: Yes.

Ted Simons: Talk about that.

Robert Miley: Release the fear, works with disadvantaged and troubled youth, and basically, we don't believe there is such a thing as a bad wit or person, that they have not found their gifts, go through art, music, and communication, and we're able to get a glimpse of what they could possibly do. And the -- and we're reducing recidivism in the state.

Ted Simons: So with that in mind, you said sure. I will go ahead and make some ornaments, but I want some help.

Robert Miley: Yes. I have one caveat, that we can work with the kids we work with behind bars, and with the kids, the homeless, shelters, and we're able to -- that's from adobe. The kids were selected. It's interesting how underlying a person's gifts really matters. There was one kid that staff was talking to the lady going, I didn't know I could draw, and people need to realize, and really embrace people's gifts. This was done by, actually, Kenilworth there, the adobe mountain facility.

Ted Simons: The school.

Robert Miley: The school, and that one was done by the Sequoia school of deaf and hearing impaired.

Ted Simons: Oh, my goodness. And most incredible working with those kids. And the children's first, homeless, they took over for pappas.

Ted Simons: And there you are Mr. Big shot there, everyone is doing the work for you.

Robert Miley: Get to juggle balls.

Ted Simons: Were the kids selected? Did you see some talent or how did that work? The selection process?

Robert Miley: The kids did drawings. The -- I don't know how far the camera would go.

Ted Simons: I will help you.

Robert Miley: Ok.

Ted Simons: Go ahead. Talk about what this is.

Robert Miley: That's one of the drawings that the parents saw, said, I didn't know that my kid could draw.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Robert Miley: And that was behind bars.

Ted Simons: That's a very -- for not knowing your kid can draw, that's pretty good.

Ted Simons: Yeah. That's good stuff.

Robert Miley: So the kids did some drawings and they got to work on hemispheres, the separate ones that Washington sent us, their plex pieces, and then the challenge was really, ok, now how do you make it one, an underlying theme that they work with. Becoming one, the power of one, the way you can do, what we can do as a community together.

Ted Simons: Well, it worked. You got it to Washington, and now, this is, this is -- this is up in Washington right now, correct?

Robert Miley: It is. It is a most incredible display. A lot of these kids were like, you mean, like what we do? The President is going to see it? The other people like that? And it was -- yeah.

Ted Simons: So is this on the ground now? It's from Arizona.

Robert Miley: Yes, and it says, my name, and then this is -- they are incredible ornaments.

Ted Simons: They look fantastic. Yeah. They just -- and I imagine that the kids are just absolutely beside themselves?

Robert Miley: Yeah. The fact that they matter.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Robert Miley: And look at the people.

Ted Simons: That's gorgeous.

Robert Miley: Yeah.

Ted Simons: Now, what kind of response are you getting from the parents of these kids?

Robert Miley: The fact that they are proud that they are a part of this. You know, there is no such thing as bad parents, people only know what they know until they know something different, you know, and that's what we try to do, there is the tree lighting ceremony.

Ted Simons: Yeah.

Robert Miley: It was incredible.

Ted Simons: And it's kind of neat to be a part of that.

Robert Miley: Yeah.

Robert Miley: The -- there is one ornament that, actually, the congressman from Pennsylvania, I said, the kids wanted to give this to the first family. And we were visiting with them, and with the congressman, and he says, is there anything else you need? And I'm originally from Pennsylvania. I said well, do you have any clout at the White House? He said I'm going there Monday night. Well, he said bring it and I will take it with me. He arrives with this package. He's trying to get it to the family some how.

Ted Simons: So basically, you don't know -- they could see be looking at that on Christmas morning? Inside the White House, could be your stuff there?

Robert Miley: Yes.

Ted Simons: So, release the fear, in general, works with these kids. These kinds of projects are pretty much what you do, correct, through art, through performance, and through --

Robert Miley: We, actually, were approved by the state to teach character education last year, for three years. We were vetted. The -- when I met with the state, we're not going to teach the kids anything, and they looked at me like what are you doing sitting here? I said we're going to remind them, through interactive play that they can, and they already know these things. For instance, one of the things that we do, we give out the -- we get to select without knowing what it is the five pillars or six pillars. And then they had to create a skit in five minutes, they create a skit, and they come back, and the rest of the other teams have to guess what pillar, is it citizenship? Is it fairness, responsibility, respect? Etc. And so, we asked the kids why. It's all inquiry-based learning. We say why, why did we have you act it out rather than write about it? And they were like well, you have to walk the walk. When you do it, you know, less than -- it's interesting, less than 25% of us learn by audio. And more learn Kinesthetically and visually. So we involve, really, a lot of Howard Gardner's theory of multiplicity. They get do this and then reflect and do public speaking, which is one of the scariest things for human beings, over death, even.

Ted Simons: I have heard that.

Ted Simons: Well, it sounds like you really engage these kids and it's really making a difference, a very merry Christmas to them and you. Congratulations on this. This is a great work.

Robert Miley: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thank you no joining us.

Robert Miley: Thank you.

Ted Simons: And Friday on Arizona Horizon it's the journalist's roundtable, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments at a challenge to the legislative districts, and you know who, apparently going to make a return visit to Phoenix next week. Those stories on the next journalist's roundtable. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you very much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Announcer: Arizona Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Eight. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you. Arizona Artbeat is made possible in part by the Flinn Foundation. Supporting the advancement of arts and culture in Arizona.

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