I pushed “play” on the old silver cassette player as my parents kissed me goodnight and closed the door to my bedroom. I lay there alone in the darkness covered with my cool, fresh sheets, and listened to the clear familiar wail of the clarinet that opened Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. As an eight-year-old, I listened to Rhapsody in Blue every night. I never tired of it, even though I could anticipate each note. It was my song.
My three-year-old escaped from the gallery. I chased after him only to find him standing alone by a sculpture in the stairwell at the MoMA. Something in it captured him. He circled around it transfixed, gesturing, tracing the arcs of the forms. Squatting low, he analyzed it from every angle. I stood back, watching, not daring to interrupt his experience.
I seem to be reminded of the impact of the arts on the spirit at every turn lately. I watched a PBS special on the Chautauqua Institution which extolled the virtues of this magical experience and place, the beauty found in being enmeshed in a community, if even for a short time, where people were engaged in the creation and appreciation of the arts.
On NPR I heard a feature on the promotion and celebration of the arts during JFK’s presidency. This quote by President Kennedy struck me the most:
I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for the victories or defeats in battle or politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.
“Contributions to the human spirit”…those words continue to hang in my mind and I am reminded in a world of force and power that some of the greatest power lies in the simple beautiful acts of creation. There is something in the visual buzz of colors on canvas, the exalting crescendos of music, the rhythmic word cadence of a poem, the captivating narrative of a book, the embodiment of an experience in a play or a film that seems to dance in our consciousness. Art is personal if it touches our spirit in a unique way. It lifts us, exalts, makes us feel the depth and measure of our experience. I believe in God because of the testaments of great art created by man. I know He is a God of creation and beauty.
The arts have a way of stilling or enlivening our souls, in resonating with our humanity and divinity. They serve as companions through the experiences of our lives.
As an artist, nothing is more meaningful to me that when someone tells me a piece I have created has moved them. I treasure the personal notes I get from buyers telling me about their connection to a certain piece. That is my greatest motivation to paint.
Most people agree they love the arts but often find the arts don’t figure as prominently in their lives as they’d like. Symphony, ballet, and theater tickets are expensive. There is no public library of great art that you can check out and hang on your wall. It’s hard to get to, or far away, or our schedules don’t permit. So how do we carve a space and give priority to this soul nourishing element in our lives?
How do the arts figure in your life? How do you explore or promote the arts? What works of art have made deep impressions on you? What are your favorite genres?