Art teacher Mary Jane Overall flew to Australia for two weeks and ended up staying three months. Overall, a teacher at the Sandy Spring Friends Schools, won a grant from the Australian-based Chromacryl Paint Co. early last year that provided for travel expenses to Australia. What began as a relaxing trip to the other side of the globe became an investigation into the Australian arts scene lasting all summer.
"They thought I would be a little old school teacher, going over there and looking at buildings," she muses.
But Overall, possessing strong opinions on the state of arts education in America and determined to find out about the state of same in Australia, didn't go to the country merely to scope out local brick piles. Instead, she trundled some videotape equipment along on her forays into urban schools and aboriginal reservations and interviewed teachers and artists. "The secondary art education in Australia is a fully matriculated subject, as important as history or math," Overall says. "Here it's just not respected; there it's considered vital."
She observed aboriginal dances at Papunya, northwest of Alice Springs, where an Australian artist had provided the aboriginal residents with acrylic paints. Acrylics appealed to the aborigines, and Overall recorded on tape some of the striking murals they created on the face of a settlement building.
For now, Overall contents herself with the search for money to produce her videotape, while waiting for word on grant applications. She also works in a gourmet store on Connecticut Avenue at night, picking up additional funds for her videotape project.