So lately I’ve been thinking about the Arts. You know, drawing, painting, sculpting, collage, photography, dance, music, theater, film, poetry, fiction: all those creative things that we all used to do or wished we could do when we were children, but don’t always remember to pursue as we become adults with adult responsibilities and less and less time that feels like it is ours to use as we wish.
I’ve come to realize that the times in my life when I have been the most artistic are the times in my life when I have been the most happy. And, those times in my life when I have let art and creativity fall away under the pressure of adult responsibilities have been the times when my come and go depression has come and stayed a while, sometimes a long while.
My parents are not really ones to lecture. During my childhood they tended to leave that to our teachers and the priest on Sundays. Instead, my parents taught by example much of the time. And so, I have to thank them for teaching me the value of the Arts by living them and encouraging my brothers and sisters and I to live them as well:
My parents are dancers- not Fred and Ginger mind you, but square dancers. They danced at least weekly for years and years. But it wasn’t for money or recognition. They just danced for fun, to socialize, for the exercise, and to have an excuse to go out together. They kept art in their lives just to have it in their lives. And, whenever one of us kids wanted to do something artistic- dance or sing or act or write, play an instrument or paint or build things, they were always encouraging, always finding the time and the money to allow us to try.
No one in my family makes a living at it, but we are all artists just the same. This, as it turns out is a wonderful gift.
So lately, I’ve been inspired by the creativity around and inside me to try and foster it in both my kids and in kids in general: I’m on the Reflections committee for both my children’s school and am probably a little too gong ho about it, but there I am anyway.
If you don’t know what Reflections is, I’ll sum up: Kids of all ages are given the same theme and they make art about that theme- dancing or drawing, music or painting, poetry or photos, fiction or film. Then the ones that best show the theme go from school to county, the best of them from county to state and then on to national judging. The winners on the national level get $800 in prize money and bragging right. There are only six winners so that’s not really the point. The real point of Reflections is to get the kids to explore art, to get the kids to try it.
And, the entries I think are the most important are the ones from kids who never thought of themselves as artists, the ones from kids who try something new and different or possibly previously out of reach for them. Will any of the kids from my two schools win that $800? Probably not, but every one of them will get a little share of the gift that my parents gave us kids- the understanding that art is its own reward and how important it is to hold onto that little spark of creativity no matter no matter how busy we get.
Appendix 1: Ways I have been an artist.
Appendix 2: Performing or Creative Groups I have been a part of.
WWPHS Marching Band
Rutgers University Marching Band
WWPHS Winter Guard
Horizon Winter Guard
Hunterdon Hayshakers 4H Square Dancing Club
Maurice Hawk Elementary School Choir
WWPHS 7th & 8th Grade Choir
St. David the King Roman Catholic Church Choir
Girl Scouts (yes all those crafts and sing-alongs count)
The Rich Family Players (we used to put on Christmas pageants in our living room)
The Kindergarten Circus at Maurice Hawk
Maurice Hawk Elementary School Plays
Dutch Neck Upper Elementary School Plays
Cross Creek Players
Appendix 3: Partial List of Art I have yet to explore, but plan to someday.
Knitting and Lacework
Painting with Oils
Cobbling (but not leather work)
Calligraphy (Chinese and otherwise)