As I drive through the hip, coastal art communities here along the Pacific coast, I often catch a glimpse of that famous bumper sticker proclaiming "Art Saves Lives"! Can it really? I ponder. Why yes! The music in my car stereo attests to this truth as it lifts my soul. The colorful mural I pass boosts up the otherwise ruddiness of the parking lot I pull into. I stop and slip into a gallery on this drizzly, looming afternoon. Dry and quiet now, my surroundings include; an abstract watercolor, a tribal mask and near the window, a teal art-glass vase spilling color up and out and overflowing into the gallery. My world has become a more beautiful place and this is just the perspective from my eyes!
Whether you're an artist or someone who makes art supplies available to the art community, you are making the world a more beautiful place ... and saving lives. How? According to a recent Washington State University article entitled "Why Do We Need Art", we see that art has been a part of human culture, expression and survival for all of human existence. Ellen Dissanayake, affiliate professor at the UW school of music and author of "What is Art For" says "We don't have a verb 'to art', but what are artists, dancers, poets doing? They're taking the ordinary and making it special. You create a bowl out of mud but you don't leave it ordinary, you make it special by engraving a pattern or figures on it. A poet takes ordinary words and makes them special. An artist places an activity or an artifact in a realm different from the everyday."
That very artful expression is something that cultures throughout history have needed to survive. We need art as an avenue to express something in us and we need art in order to make exceptional, something that's otherwise ordinary in our world. In a sense, art saves our lives from stagnation, meaninglessness and the ordinary. As Picasso has said "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
Are you an artist? My guess is that there are times when you feel you must create to live, not because you need to sell something or to create an income (a nice benefit from living in a world that appreciates and understands the need for art) but because to create is to live and to live is to create!
A recent Seattle Times photographer viewed a piece of mine. Excitedly, he asked me to stand so he could photograph me with it. "That's a work of art"! He proclaimed. I garnered more mileage and "life" out of his appreciation than I do when I sell a print of it. Why? Because even in a tough economy, while some people may perceive art as a "luxury item", artists will still create, not always because it may stir up income but because we have for thousands of years and like those hip coastal community, car bumper stickers attest; Art Saves Lives!