The arts can offer us a glimpse into the vulnerability and human side of others and help us defeat the discouraging divisions we often experience in today’s world. No matter how we choose to engage with the arts, our involvement helps us to see and hear and feel things that may have previously left us disconnected and untouched.
Whether viewing a single work of art or walking through a gallery, taking an art walk, or attending a performance or festival, people leave with a deeper understanding of the artistic process. They frequently have an appreciation for things they have never experienced and perhaps a global perspective that transcends cultural differences that often cause trauma in everyday life. The arts unite people and give voice to feelings we all share; they can communicate where a reasonable idea exchange might otherwise be blocked.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.“ Edgar Degas
Artistic expression is the result of imaginative possibility that comes from making connections.
Artists make connections within themselves—between heart and mind; they develop a relationship with the innermost self and with the world at large; and they pursue imaginative possibility linking old and new perspectives. Artists and observers alike are all beneficiaries of these connections.
While it’s not possible to describe a precise personal experience for everyone upon of hearing a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, most people do recognize its powerful expressiveness and a theme of praise and wish for freedom and peace between all people. Although written in the mid-1820s, it’s a visionary political message that is relevant even today.
“By adding the text by Schiller, a philosopher whom he greatly admired, and incorporating the sound and inflection of the human voice, Beethoven conveyed a broad existential philosophy that embraced his belief in unity, tolerance, peace, and joy.” ~ Marin Alsop, conductor
The strong emotional reaction most people experience when they see and study Pablo Picasso’s 1937 painting, Guernica, can inspire them to consider the tragedies of war and the suffering it causes. The 11 feet tall and 25 feet long painting in monochrome colors portrays the consequence of the violence and chaos we inflict on one another. The pain and grief depicted in the painting are images we can compare to things we now see on the news nearly every day. In today’s world, it might inspire us to consider our connection to one another and the value of peaceful coexistence.
The recent release of a second film adaptation of the of the 1957 musical, West Side Story, reminds us of the problems of racism, poverty, and the destructiveness of violence we face every day. People in the United States and throughout the world continue to fight with one another, ignoring the toll it takes on all sides. It’s one of the most popular stories of all time, and still relevant—mass shootings, gangs, guns, and even in politics, the division is destructive. Today, we face oppression and discrimination on all sorts of the topics—sex, gender, orientation, religion, belief, race, wealth, and many others. The music, story, dancing, and images in West Side Story might inspire us to ask ourselves, “How can we develop and broaden our understanding of community and belonging?”
“Couldn’t you see he’s one of them? No, I only saw him.” ~ Bernardo and Maria in West Side Story
These are only a few examples of how artists use their artistic voice to expand connectedness.
If we commit to creating space for depth of understanding about the arts and artistic process—in family settings, schools, community events, and neighborhoods—we can transform our lives and experience more vibrant, healthy communities.
“My goal as an artist is to create art that makes people look at the world in a different way.” ~ Autumn de Forest
Dr. Patricia Hoy
Books: Arts Awareness: A Fieldbook for Awakening Creative Consciousness in Everyday Life by Patricia Hoy, GIA Publications