I have the privilege of working in a museum that prioritizes making meaningful connections between art and people’s lives, and because it is my job to help frame opportunities for visitors to ask questions, to try new things, and to stretch their perspectives through art, it becomes easy to see, on a daily basis, why art matters. Art is an equalizer in those moments, helping individuals or groups make connections across diverse viewpoints, backgrounds, and ideas. But, it is my five-year-old daughter who has reminded me how naturally creative expression comes to us as humans. Within the ease with which she dances through our rooms, puts crayon to paper, strums her toy guitar, or becomes a new character borne forth from her imagination, is a lesson about the value of art. My daughter’s creative expression is simply a way to make sense of her world, to find her voice, or sometimes just to share in something beautiful or new together. She, like all kids, seems hard-wired for art – both looking and making – and I cannot help but to wonder how some of us lose this connection as we age. “I don’t have the time.” “I don’t understand it.” “Art is not for me.” I suppose these are all reasons why we choose not to participate. But when I look at my daughter, I am reminded of just how low the barriers to art really are, and how personally fulfilling the experiences are if you just carve out the space for them from time to time.
It makes me think that to many people art is like an old friend. You may not have seen her in ten or twenty years, and you may hesitate to call on her because it has been too long; but once you make the effort, you realize how connected you still are, and wind up wondering why you waited so long. Art, like old friends, lives in our hearts, our memories, and our minds. It may not always be visible or tangible, but that does not mean it is not there.
So, why do the arts matter? I think everyone already has the answer to this question inside him- or herself. If the answer does not feel immediately obvious, then perhaps it is just time to reconnect with your old pal, art. If you make even a small effort, I think you will be pleasantly surprised to see how easy it is to remember why you were friends in the first place.