I was lucky to be raised by parents that valued the arts. For many years I took this for granted. It wasn’t until true adulthood that I realized how much the arts influenced me, or the impact the arts have on the world in general.
This is on my mind because my sixteen-year old daughter recently attended the Center for Creative Youth (CCY) summer program. For five weeks she lived on the Wesleyan University campus and was taught, coached and inspired by professional artists in a variety of art forms. The program included a “parent’s day,” so my husband and I – habitually weary from our daily responsibilities – drove to Middletown on a hot Saturday morning with expectations only to see our daughter and endure the day. Our visit turned out to be an experience so beyond expectations, and it has left a lasting impression.
The day was structured so that parents could experience the program much as their children do on a daily basis. So we moved from classes to performances to galleries; from my daughter’s sweet singing, to slam poetry, African dance and drumming, photography, sculpture, theater, rock and roll and a steel band performance. I have not spent a day so rich with inspiration in a long time.
The inspiration went beyond a parent’s pride, or an adult’s pleasure in watching young adults at their best.
I realized that although I work with talented, creative people every day, I don’t spend enough of my personal time exploring or experiencing the arts. Adult life has gradually directed my attention elsewhere. It seems each year that goes by, and as the business grows, I do less reading, less crafting, less theater going, and in general, spend less unstructured time following threads of interest or ideas.
I think what I am revealing here is something many people experience: life takes work and oftentimes we forgo the optional. But what our CCY visit reminded me was that the arts, although often elective, are not optional. The arts are an essential ingredient to a full and productive life. One single day’s visit to CCY stimulated more ideas, more thought, and more excitement for me personally than ever happens in a normal day. I left there more “engaged” and full of possibilities.
On the minute scale of a single life, I will translate that optimism to my personal and business worlds. If my experience – and the experience of others – can translate into stronger advocacy for the arts, perhaps we can make a small dent in ensuring that the arts have similar effect for good on a grander scale.