Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Art truly brings people together - A social commentary about visual art.

Art truly brings people together - A social commentary about visual art.

            When I look at all the things I could have studied to earn a living and all the different ideas I have come up with over the years as a possible career path (everything from being a Computer Programmer, Architect, Teacher to becoming an Accountant), there is one thing that constantly reminds me of my main purpose in life, which is to create art. When I find myself alone with my thoughts, what comes to mind is fun new ideas to paint, whether it be a colorful new wildlife painting, children’s art or a digital 3D rendering. I dream in Technicolor and I dream of fun, colorful animals, architectural buildings that defy the laws of physics, children’s toys that come to life and new worlds to create on canvas or digitally. I have always had a vivid imagination and as an adult, I still daydream and have constantly since I was a child in grade school.

Society does not always want dreamers or people with a vision but number crunchers, computer programmers and engineers. I love being an engineer and have been one for twenty years but I also find that there is a calling that God has put on my heart to create and what solidifies and verifies that calling are two things – the recurring dream itself and the realization of that dream materialized.

The dream is the easy (or potentially nagging or haunting) part but seeing the dream realized – putting on art shows, selling art and having smiling, happy and satisfied customers is the exclamation point and the proof that you are capable of making that dream come true. There are many people who call themselves artists and they are in their own right but the proof if you will or the validation by society comes when you are a paid artist making money with your vision. I have seen that realization come true in my life and it brings joy and satisfaction to see my art sell but more importantly to impact people in a positive way. I have also seen the realization of my dream by putting on one man art shows both in my home town and here in Florida.

One thing I have observed at most of the art shows I have attended or hosted is that Art as a medium truly brings people together. I will never forget one art show at the former OVAL art gallery in downtown Orlando, Florida that was well attended. There were homeless people, rich people, young and old people all alike in this crowded art gallery. There were artists with tattoos smoking outside, artists wearing formal clothes and people from all walks of life gathered in this exhibit hall for one common purpose – to enjoy a night of culture and art. It was like watching a painting in motion or seeing a movie come to life being filmed in front of you. It was a picture itself of life as it should be and as it ought to be.

You could see it in their faces –the look of wonder, the look of amazement, the look of being kids in a candy store and scarcely being able to take it all in. There was no snootiness, no prejudice, no social class and no division. I found myself sitting back being an observer, taking in the flurry of activity going on around me. I greeted people, answered questions about my art, ate and mingled with the crowd all the while watching people taking in the sights, colors and sounds of the evening.

My other similar art show experience was a “one man show” that I hosted as a solo exhibitor in Winter Park, Florida one year. It was a year where Florida was heavily hit by hurricanes and there was not even fresh drinking water in Winter Park the week of the show. The local newspaper advertised the show in the morning edition, flyers, emails and phone calls had gone out but I had no idea if anyone would even turn out due to the devastation the storms had brought.

Much to my pleasant surprise, there was a great turnout. Friends and strangers alike showed up to see my art and photography, have some finger foods and fresh bottled water and soft drinks. The crowd was a great mix of children and old people but everyone seemed to have a really good time. There were smiles, greetings, a flurry of activity along with tables and chairs for people to sit, eat and talk. It was a great environment but what impressed me the most was seeing absolute strangers pull up chairs and sit and break bread together. One friend brought her son who thought for sure he would be bored but ended up being inspired enough to sit down at a desk and do some drawing of his own , smiling and taking in the experience and having a good time doing so.

I have observed on many if not all occasions that Art truly does bring people together. It does what music often fails to do but is supposed to do. Music is said to bring people together and yet with all the various styles of music from classical to rap to heavy metal, it often tends to divide and even alienate people based upon the audience and their musical preferences.

As an Artist that has struggled to ‘make it in the world’ since I was a child, I have found there are some constants at work in the art universe. One thing I have learned is that art is recession proof. If someone sees something they like, they want it. As one customer over the internet once wrote to me, “I want it, I don’t care how much it is, I just have to have this painting” and she got it. I stayed up until midnight bubble wrapping two art prints in a box that was 2 feet wide by 3 feet high. The result was a happy customer, a friendship and even repeat business that led to her purchasing other prints from me down the road. Proof that art does sell itself when it speaks to someone’s soul and can bridge the gap of time, distance, language and other barriers.

- Rick Short
February 21, 2012