Artful Living

clarity calm on a hairy day
Sam Sartorius, 2006
20" x 15.5"
oil on canvas

Without patrons there can be no artists.
Without artists there can be no art.
Without art there cannot be lives filled with color, melody, motion, drama, and joy.

These are the thoughts hardwired in the forefront of my mind after attending the Arts Council of Indianapolis' Start with Art luncheon today. I did so in the company of my good friend and painter, Sam Sartorius, and had the pleasure of hearing the keynote address given by Dan Pink, a professional colleague who has provided me with some great insights about my own work. Dan is the author of Free Agent Nation, and most recently, A Whole New Mind. He was kind enough to involve me in contributing some content to the paperback edition of the latter.

Our mayor, Bart Peterson, is a public official whose commitment to the arts has been evident since the day he took office. Challenged with an increasingly difficult fiscal year budget because of increased public safety needs that have emerged this summer, Peterson reiterated the needs for the arts in his remarks today. What was most striking for me was the connection he made between arts and public safety, and not a “play to the audience” gratuitous political link either.

Peterson’s point, an important one, is that the arts are a critical conduit for engaging young people in meaningful activity that enriches the community and enhances their person development. Engaged young people don’t have idle time on their hands, and without idle time, they are less likely to turn to undesirable activities that result in diminished public safety. Jokingly, he commented on how being involved in high school theatrical productions had kept his 18-year-old daughter out of trouble. As someone who spent almost every evening and weekend day at play practice, choir rehearsal, speech team tournaments, or some other related event, I can definitely concur.

So art is vital to our community and being a patron is vital to artists. Sure, artists live to create, to practice their craft, to make their art. But art is also the way they make their living. Starving artist is all too frequently an apt description for the episodic nature of many artists’ income stream. Having music, dance, sculpture, paintings, drama, and much more as part of the fabric of our lives (and our communities) requires our butts in seats, our eyes at openings, and our ears at concerts. Just go to something. Explore. Be curious.

So many people believe that the performing arts are out of their price range. Without a doubt, you can drop lots of cash very quickly. But free and affordable choices abound. Want to take the family to a play? Go during previews when tickets are cheaper or look for “pay what you can” performances. See a painting that is perfect for your home? You can probably work out a payment plan with the artist. My home would be just a house without the art that enriches every room in it: music, paintings, sculptures, dance performance DVDs, and more. Ridiculously cheap finds from a flea market hang proudly next to more costly canvases. We should think less about the cost of having the arts in our lives and more about the cost to us of not living artfully.

In his talk, Dan Pink compellingly asserted that the economic engine of our nation and the professional success of individuals will increasingly require competence in right-brain attributes including empathy, design, play, and story. These are the natural domain and home of most artists. They are ready and willing to invite us in. All we have to do is RSVP.

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