Author’s Disclaimer: This is an article written completely from stream-of-consciousness with no editing so it may seem a bit grammatically rough and redundant in places. I wanted to leave it this way because it’s more sincere and closest to how I feel. With that said, enjoy and I hope you have a take-away from it.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about arts advocacy and what I can do to help facilitate change. I’m not talking about simply throwing money at the arts and calling it good. I’m talking about facilitating change on a mindset level – changing the way we think about the arts. For too long we’ve seen the arts here in the States as an extracurricular thing to do when we have time. This idea, this mindset has been supported by funding cuts for the arts, cutting arts classes from school curricula, fueling heavy competition between artists in a kind of survival-of-the-fittest scenario and if you can’t scale that wall then you’re a loser. There’s a lot more that helps to cultivate this mindset but I think you get the picture. All of it has made being an artist of any kind a hazard – you’re so busy traversing the landscape full of mines that you’re art often suffers. Creative energy gets sucked up by things like promoting and marketing yourself, cultivating relationships so you can sell your wares and wondering if you’re even good enough to begin with. This is not to complain about how things are for artists but rather just the reality we need to deal with on a day to day basis. And if you do complain about it, you get shut out and ignored for being a big cry baby about things.
I would love to help change this.
I know this is a HUGE job but I feel down to my bones that we really need to cultivate a different view of the arts and really see just how important they are to human survival. Before you think I’m going off on some sort of operatic tangent, just think about for a moment your time back in high school when everybody is jostling for their position in life, trying to figure out how and where they fit in. Now think about the rejection you got in high school or how you didn’t fit in with all the cool people or how you felt misunderstood and then think about that one song about being the outsider and how resonated with is so much that you listened to is over and over and over. It got you through the daily grind of being you in a world that didn’t value that. This is exactly one on the ways music is a healer. Now, imagine that the artists who made that song never made it because they weren’t supported enough economically or culturally. This is the kind of risk we’ve been running for a long, long time with the arts here in the U.S.
This was never pointed out more clearly than when I went to Mexico in 2017. When I was there, I witnessed just how much of an important role the arts played in everyday life. I could feel it in the air even in a place like Mexico City. It was just so different. The arts were everywhere from music, to writing, to sculpture to design of the parks and buildings to how you ordered a quesadilla. When I came back to the States it was almost like coming back to sterility with the beige, the square, the uniform, the dull. We’ve been so conditioned to accept this as the norm which feels sad to me. I think about the lack of play, innovation, inventiveness, imagination and motivation to even endeavor in these. It seems in our world, inventiveness means making something that is utilitarian and anything that is utilitarian is far more valuable than anything artistic. Every day, I meet and talk with people who feel they could never “be an artist” because they feel it’s reserved for those who are only good enough. I’m here to say
We are ALL good enough.
I believe one of the best ways to help cultivate a different mindset around the arts is by simply letting ourselves play in the arts. That’s what they are there for. To play. I’ve never heard of anyone working music. We PLAY music. And in that playing we make “mistakes.” It’s what comes with he territory of making art and it’s no big deal. So, I want to encourage you that if you ever wanted to paint or make music or dance or whatever DO it. We need you to! Seriously. You may not feel you want to share what you do but that’s not the point. The point of making art at the moment is to simply let yourself enjoy the process of making it. Let it feed you. Let it seep in and see where it takes you. Let it open you up to new possibilities. You’d be amazed at what even doing a simple pencil drawing without judgement would do for you. This is not about creating a masterpiece but more about letting yourself play like we used to do as kids. No judgements, no criticisms just enjoyment. Can you do it? Next time you go shopping can find it to go to an art store and buy a pad of paper and a bunch of pencils and just let your imagination fly? Can you go to a music store and get a cool little used keyboard and just let your fingers fall on the keys and see what comes out? Can you let yourself listen to what you do and enjoy the process of opening up to parts of yourself that have been latent for so long? I thoroughly believe that by making art daily, making that time for ourselves to play we can come to sincerely understand the true meaning and purpose of art. Once you start tapping into that part of yourself that loves to create and play and invent, there’s no telling where it will lead you. The tricky part is leaving your expectations and attachments to outcomes at the door. As I said before this is not about making a masterpiece. Lord knows, I’ve got plenty of fragments of songs hanging out on my computer and bits of paper that may or may not become fully fledged songs. I’m not worried about it. I’m more into the idea of tapping into that part of me that’s made of love and loves to create and explore. It’s a world unlike any other full of wholeheartedness, love and simplicity.
So, just to show that I’m not just blowing a bunch of hot air, I’m walking my talk by simply writing this article and sending it out there. I have no idea where it will lead if anywhere but that doesn’t matter. It’s writing with love because this is what making music has done for me – helping me to tap into that rich bank of love inside and opening it up to share with this world. And I invite you to do the same.
Are you up for it?