Picasso famously stated that, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” It’s true, I believe. I’ve never met a child who sat in front of a box of Legos worrying about what they were going to make, or sat with of a bunch of crayons or markers wondering what in the world they might do with them. In contrast, more often than not, a common response I observe when people find out I am an artist is this, “Wow, that’s great. I couldn’t even draw a stick figure.”
For some of us art become a problem to figure out, some kind of elite challenge only for qualified experts, or a certain kind of people. A select few of creative, talented, skinny-jeaned and trendy-glasses wearing people.
But here is the deal: The arts are a conduit to tell a story about what it is like to be a human being. That’s it. If you are a human being, this stuff called the arts is for you. There are parameters to be sure, of design principles and critical discourse, and they are important. But this thing, this deeply inventive notion that we can engage with, is for everyone. It is perhaps the most democratic of agencies we possess.
Here is what I think happened for some of us: Think back to your elementary school experience. There were probably a handful of your classmates that did well in art class, and even fewer who were celebrated or recognized for their talent. The reality is, unless an adult, most likely an art teacher, recognized and pointed out your creative potential when you were young, you likely stepped through your early development believing that you were not creative. This can leave a gap in understanding of the arts, and a longing to reconnect with the part of ourselves that engages with creativity.
Here are some suggestions that may help from being an observer of the arts to actively engaging in them:
1. Trust Your Curiosity. You opened this article to learn more. I believe that creative experiences are tangible in everyday, ordinary life. While in the midst of running errands, going to work, and other standard necessities of day to day, a sensitivity can be cultivated to engage with and experience wonder. In fact, it is often during times of mindful idleness, experienced in ordinary tasks, that our minds can wonder and daydream. This is an important component of engaging with creativity. One of my favorite poems is by Gregory Orr, the inspiration for which came to him while he was washing dishes. Let wonder engage with you by following your curiosity in the midst of routine tasks.
2. Accept That Beauty is an Everyday, Common Occurrence in this World. With so much of technology culture and news cycles relying on negative stories to generate ratings and “clicks” it is easy, I would argue likely, to be overwhelmed with the heaviness of the news content in our modern society. Art reminds us, and makes us more sensitive to, the beauty that surrounds us every day. I’m not saying to live life with blinders on, just live with a more balanced and nuanced perspective.
3. Realize that You Have Been Changed by Art Already, and Make Room for More of That Experience. I bet you can think of at least one song, photograph, movie, or play that connected with you. Maybe the idea that life is a rich and varied experience that is meant to be enjoyed was somehow communicated. Or perhaps it was the loss of something wonderful that needed expression. Whatever it was, you encountered something that made you feel more alive. There is room for increased amounts of that kind of experience.
The good news is, you will not have to go far to find art in your community, so choose an event and go. Which leads me to a shameless plug alert: First Friday Gallery Hops are coming this November 4th. If you live close to the Grand Rapids Area, I would love to see you at this event. First Fridays happen every month on the Avenue for the Arts on South Division. There you will find artwork by local artists, handmade goods, and food and drink specials at local eating establishments.
For the upcoming First Friday, I have been involved in coordinating an exhibition at Spiral Gallery, located on 44 Division Avenue, which will be showcasing the work of Kendall College of Art and Design of FSU (KCAD) Painting Alumni. The exhibition will feature the work of five artists, all graduates of KCAD’s Master of Fine Art Program in Painting. The work of these artists is distinctly different and varied. Some working within the boundaries of realism, others working with more expressive techniques and subject matter, while others are using unique and diverse materials in their work. This variety of processes makes this exhibition an opportunity to engage with the varied medium of painting in new and unexpected ways. The opening is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. I would love it if you stopped by and said hello. I would be interested to meet you, see your perspective, and continue this conversation.
Artists Included in KCAD Painting Alumni Invitational: Katie Moore, Nancy Oaks-Hall, Dustin Rogers, Beth Siewert Purdy, and Michael Breakiron.
To follow Spiral Gallery on Facebook and view the Invite for the KCAD Painting Alumni Invitational:
For more information on Avenue for the Arts First Friday Gallery Hops:
To Read the Poem: After the Guest, by Gregory Orr: