When you think of an artist, what do you see? A bearded chap with a beret, perhaps? Or does a graceful dancer prance across your mind? We tend to think of art in categories like visual and performing, but in fact, art spans the spectrum. Consider a chef who combines ingredients to produce inspiring new flavors. Or an engineer who calculates precise measurements to create a towering bridge that arches across a river.
Art is in the eye of the beholder, you might say.
I’ve always envied artists: those talented folks among us who embody the creative spirit. With very little effort, it seems, gifted artists produce amazing canons—whether it’s Mozart’s symphonies or Monet’s masterpieces. Seeing such talent can make the ordinary among us feel like we’ve been left out of the gene pool. The truth is creating art can be an agonizing process—just ask any artist. Often, the creative spirit is nowhere to be found, just when you need her the most!
Still artists muddle through, finding redemption in those bursts of inspiration that lead to wonderment. In the process, if they’re lucky, they lose themselves in the act of creating, a feeling of being in the moment that’s like no other. The women who appear in this month’s cover story about the sewing arts describe being transported as they focus on the task at hand.
As Kathleen Fogarty points out in this article, a meditative state often accompanies the act of sewing or knitting. Time slows down, and you sink into the moment, leaving the world to take care of itself for awhile. This mindfulness is also one of the reasons yoga is becoming so popular. In this age of multi-tasking, our brains crave peaceful pursuits, I think. Making art of any kind—including artful yoga poses—rejuvenates our spirits.
I’m sure you’ve heard how arts funding in our schools has fallen dramatically in recent years. It’s sad because art is an important antithesis to our high-tech, information-laden society. Inside this issue you’ll find an article called “Raising Art-Smart Kids,” which explains why including art in our schools’ curricula ensures our children will develop the skills needed to lead us into the 22nd century—and beyond. Creating art, whether as an individual or a group, requires problem-solving skills, adaptability, and collaboration, for example. Encouraging projects that reinforce these abilities and allowing for creative freedom are, to me, essential components of our children’s education.
Change is hard, though. Many educators have been brought up with the “bank system” style of learning. In other words, the teacher deposits his knowledge into the students. In the 60s and 70s, the paradigm shifted, and students began seeking their own versions of truth. Now experts are discovering that the most effective way to learn, especially when it comes to solving problems, is through collaboration. Hopefully, as people collaborate to find solutions to the challenges of the modern world, they will learn to get along with each other better.
My column this month has followed an odd trajectory, starting with a definition of artistry and ending with a solution for curing the world’s ills. Perhaps the arts are the answer. Take some time this fall to immerse yourself in some form of creative arts. Attend a play, hear a symphony, visit a museum, knit a scarf—and let your soul be soothed by the creative spirit.