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Art is a Matter of Taste
    by David Lubar
Art is a Matter of Taste
Artwork by Lance Card

Duchamp Elementary School was crammed. The population had grown so rapidly over the past few years that students swallowed up every available space. Even the cafeteria fell victim to the overcrowding. With the help of a temporary wall, it had been turned into four cramped classrooms at the beginning of the marking period. Because of this, Keenan ate his lunch in Mrs. Ferule's class. Room 103. The art room. Keenan didn't mind. Instead of desks, there were large tables. And there were lots of interesting pictures on the wall. Keenan liked looking at art. Especially other people's art. He didn't think he drew or painted very well, himself.

"Whatcha got?" Howard asked as lifted the lid on his lunch box. A whiff of peanut butter flavored the air.

"Don't know." Keenan flipped his own lunch box open. "Phooey. Looks like mom was in a rush this morning." Usually, his mom made him a sandwich. Today, he found himself staring at a handful of crackers and a small package of cream cheese, along with a plastic knife and a paper plate.

"I got peanut butter and jelly," Howard said. "And a chocolate cupcake." He unwrapped the cupcake and ate it, starting at the top and working his way down.

Keenan took out his lunch and spread the cream cheese on the crackers. Since he had a long lunch period and a little bit of food, he took his time. For fun, he swirled patterns into the surface of the cream cheese, like he did with ice cream when it got soft. He'd just finished spreading cream cheese on the last cracker and placed it with the others when Mrs. Ferule walked past and glanced down at his plate.

She let out a gasp. Keenan let out a sigh, figuring he was about to get a lecture on the importance of a balanced meal. That didn't seem fair, especially when he was sitting next to Howard, who was wearing half a cupcake on his face.

But Mrs. Ferule didn't mention fruits, vegetables, or nutrition pyramids. Instead, she snatched the plate from the table. "Keenan, that's fabulous!"

He spun around in his seat. "Huh?"

"I've tried and tried to get my classes to understand art. I was sure I'd failed. But this - Keenan - this is true art."

She rushed to the front of the room and put the plate on her desk.

"That's not art," Keenan said. "That's my lunch."

Mrs. Ferule ignored him and continued to gush with enthusiasm. "Look at the majestic sweep of the strokes, the simple yet complex use of pure white against a textured field. You have the boldness of a young Picasso, and a style that could rival Van Gogh. Brilliance! Genius!" she shouted.

"Lunch . . . ?" Keenan said, his stomach rumbling.

"I must tell the world!" Mrs. Ferule grabbed the plate and dashed from the room.

Keenan leaned out the art-room window and watched Mrs. Ferule skitter across the street to the KDDA TV building. A moment later, she rushed back, followed by a camera crew from the six o'clock news.

The room filled with people. Someone thrust a microphone in Keenan's face and started asking him questions that didn't make any sense at all. He made up some answers, but he had no idea what he was saying. It didn't matter. The reporters seemed happy.

More people showed up - this time from the newspaper. Then a group from the local radio station crammed into the classroom.

Keenan heard the principal boasting to them about the school's dedication to the arts.

There was no telling how long the excitement might have lasted, but one of the reporters shouted something about the bank being robbed and everyone raced out of the school and zoomed down Broad Street toward the center of town. Keenan checked the room. Mrs. Ferule was nowhere in sight. Neither were the crackers. Far down the hall, he heard her saying something about taking this treasure to the museum.

Someone tugged at his sleeve.

"Can I have your autograph?" Howard asked, holding out a pen and napkin. "I never knew anyone famous before."

"Only if I can have half your sandwich," Keenan said. He still didn't understand art, but he'd already learned that fame was nowhere near as satisfying as food.

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