Many of you I know. For those that I don’t, my name is Kim Zanti. I worked alongside James at the Centers for Research on Creativity for the past five and a half years. In that time, I never saw him as my ‘boss,’ but as a business partner with whom I had an open exchange, someone who came reluctantly to the idea of managing a business, but who had great fun doing the work. And through that work, he became a mentor and a friend. In our work, he welcomed everyone without judgment or care about credentials. He listened and learned. And I learned so much from the way he listened, the way that he asked questions.
Such as, How would life be different if…?
It was the beginning of a question that James posed to thousands of students throughout his career. Typically, that question was followed by a set of novel circumstances, such as ‘How would life be different if all the roads and streets were rivers and streams? Or, how would life be different if all animals spoke Spanish and English?
I never contemplated how life would be different if James Catterall hadn’t been in my world, in our world. How many people's lives did he change just by listening, learning, thinking, and writing?
I remember walking with him in Bethesda, MD with our new research associate Gabby Arenge. We were attending the US Dept of Ed. conference and walking to lunch at a nearby pub. You would have thought he was a rock star. Young people, young scholars surrounded him, shook his hand, and said with more than a little reverence, "Dr. Catterall...so good to meet you...your work is such an inspiration to me.” Or, “Your work made the best case for the arts in education, it’s an honor to meet you." Gabby and I joked that we felt like the secret service walking with him, as he handled each acknowledgement with grace.
I remember him in Lafayette, Louisiana where we attended a summer teacher institute at LSU. Sherry Kerr, our senior research associate met James, Rebecca, and I at the airport and took us immediately to the public house of a recreated Acadian village. Rain fell in a steady beat on the roof as the local traditional music group played stringed instruments and sang in a circle. Men, women, and children in faded jeans and ball caps, work boots, and tennis shoes – they welcomed the stranger with the John Lennon spectacles, dark blue sport jacket and brown clogs. Someone handed James a guitar and he joined in with ease.
I remember my friend and neighbor Clare, who cajoled him one year to join us at the Community House Halloween Party. He said, ‘But I don’t have a thing to wear!’ So she dug through her costume closet and dressed him in a Friar Tuck outfit, complete with brown robe and silken cord around his waist. Can you picture that? James as Friar Tuck! I have one word to describe him: ADORABLE!
I think now of the outpouring of love for this generous man who made time and space for so many people. Yet, the loves of his life were his family. His wife Rebecca, his children Lisa, Hannah, and Grady, his grandchildren Mikal, Addison, Phoenix, and Sage. He loved you all deeply and enduringly. Our office is full of your books, pictures, art, your drawings. Whatever he loved about people’s creativity, he cherished yours the most. You were his world.
Work was his playground.
He taught scholars the fundamentals and nuances of data, he designed rigorous research to assess arts education and creativity programs, he guided state, county, and federal agencies toward standards and policies that accommodated different ways of teaching, different ways of knowing. He spread his word globally. He inspired.
James was more open and non-judgmental then anyone I’ve ever met. He sought bigger ways of imagining what was possible in education, by asking questions that went to the core of behavior and attitudes and dispositions. He was an academic, yes, and wielded the tools and power that came with his esteemed position, but when he wrote, he wrote as a man who genuinely wanted more humanity, more joy, more creativity to infuse learning. He dedicated his life to studying what was possible, not just passable.
He reveled in working with those who had the vision and fortitude to challenge the status quo. The dreamers and professionals, who imagine a different and richer way of cultivating young people. Who asked: How would the world be different if we guided children to thrive as whole human beings instead of sitting in chairs, empty vessels to be filled with knowledge, who would simply know the ‘correct’ answer? The list of his colleagues that he so enjoyed working with is long and many of you are here today.
It is fitting to have James’ memorial here at Theatricum, because he built his career on his belief and on the evidence – he was a scientist after all and data warmed his heart - that an arts rich and creative life had long-lasting, deep, and measureable impacts on developing human beings. I feel especially tender with this thought, because this theatre is where I met James.
I served as Theatricum’s Development Director and recruited him to our Advisory Board. He loved the Rep Shows and especially the improv shows, where he gleefully watched actors engage in what he saw as one of the highest forms of creative problem solving – on the fly, in the moment, without a net.
Theatricum is not only an important part of the fabric and history of American theatre, it is an essential laboratory for growing confident, creative, collaborative, empathetic human beings who embody the practices of ensemble performance and carry these lessons throughout their lives. And James saw that.
His own daughter and son studied in the summer camp programs and that connection, perhaps more than anything, is why we are here, in this glorious theatre, today.
James loved Topanga, he loved children and language and word play. He often shared one of his favorite memories with me of his daughter Lisa’s experience at the ripe old age of 6, when her crafty friend Tia ensnared her in a nefarious plan that went awry. James sat Lisa down and calmly asked her what happened. In defending her position, Lisa said, “Tia doesn’t give me enough choosements.”
That tickled him every time he told the story and it became somewhat of a meme between us. Faced with a situation presenting limited options, one of us would say, ‘well, they’re not giving us enough choosements.”
James Catterall, under these oaks, in this canyon that you adored, with your family and friends bearing witness, I thank you for the simplest and most treasured of gifts that one could hope for in life - your intelligent humanity, your friendship, your kindness.
How are our lives different because you were a part of them? You gave us more choosements in our quest for a more compassionate, creative, and meaningful world. Rest in peace, dear man, rest in peace, dear friend.
Where Do You Hear the Voice? Diane Luby Lane
Where do you hear the Voice? So Beautiful it pulls you Out of yourself and Into everything else So you can’t tell where you end and somebody else begins You ain’t this and you ain’t that You’re All of it Where do you go to feel Good? Where are you Grand? Where are you Glorious? What Place gives you Joy, Soul, Spirit, Juice, Goods, Now, Zip, Zap, Fizz,Fly, Kiss, Pop, Woe, Wow, Life, Liven, Love, Pizzaz, Yeah, All right, Ah-ha, Hallelujah! Where can you Spread-out, Lay-down, Lay-low, Open-up, Drip-drop, Expand, Extract-- Meaning, Goodness, Beauty, Worlds, Whys, How-comes, Why-nots? Where is your Joy? What makes you Happy? Fill yourself Up in that place that fills you ’cause you’ve left paradise Now you’re in the garden with the traps and the rats and the cats But don’t be afraid! Spread your arms out-- Take a Risk! Let the Petals of your flower go flat for the Whole Wide World to see! Lay it Down! Give it Up! Get it Out! You came here with love, so Love! Open up your Arms to the lepers, and the outcasts, and the tax collectors -- Open up! That’s right! It’s okay to feel lonely and forgotten, small, angry, meaningless, confused, forsaken-- Reach your fingers out! So far-- Further! Past the pain-- Till you’ve pulled yourself apart and all that’s left of you is One Heart Beating with the Universe-- You hear it? Oh yeah Where you hear it? Cousteau heard it in the Ocean Goodall hears it with the Chimps James Catterall in ART Where do you hear it? Glorious, glorious Lovelies— Re-member Who you are!