Art makes me whole and it continues to help me make sense of the world in which I live.
One of my favourite questions to ask someone I meet for the first time is; “How do you express your artistic side?” Responses range from details of their latest projects to “I don’t do art.” The latter response actually can produce the best discussion and usually results in the admission that the respondent does indeed ‘do’ art. Most people participate in art activities without even realizing it. We do art when we sing in a choir (or the shower), when we write a letter or craft an email or Tweet, when we dance at a ceremony, when we carve a totem, when we read to our children, when we plan a meal, when we decorate our house or garden.
Art shouts, “Here I am!” Art exists whether it’s funded or not. Art can be used as protest. Many artists have died without achieving financial success. Many have died FOR their Art. Humans are essentially creators. Art is an act of creation. To me, Art is an act of love.
It’s often said that Art adds to our economy. While there is truth to Art’s economic value, I confess to being upset when Art is quantified in this way. For example film is regularly judged by the value of the opening weekend box office. This fact gives a limiting perspective: The artistic quality of the work is lost in a pile of numbers. I believe Art has more than a financial value.
Art brings understanding. I know I can point to several Art experiences in my lifetime that have created an awareness, sometimes even a shift in my belief system. Watching a play, a dance performance, or a musical ensemble has sometimes opened my mind to another perspective and brought clarity of thought. When I engage with a character in a book or film I come away with feelings of joy, empathy, sadness. These feelings often inform my interactions with others and ultimately improve my relationships.
Art has a proven health value like its sister in Culture: Sport. When I taught special education, I sometimes worked alongside an Art Therapist who helped me connect with my students through music, puppetry or visual art. I am aware of Alzheimer’s Societies that have run successful programs using Art to help their clients. My community has a drama program at its penal institution that awakens inmates to the value of Art in their lives. If Art can heal, conversely, lacking Art in our lives may make us ill.
As an individual and as a community we need only decide how we want to participate. Many municipalities have vibrant community arts councils where you can decide with others how Art can be explored. Abundant support can lead to a vibrant art scene.
Communities that recognize that Art is fundamental to society’s Culture will prosper because its citizens will become more active in all aspects of communal living.
Art shows us who we are.