The Artist Within

“I can’t draw.”

I cringe every time I hear someone say that line, or one like it (I can’t draw I can’t sing I can’t dance I’m not creative …).  I cringe because I can’t bear to watch the person shut that door and turn away from something so intrinsic to the human experience.  The arts are a part of what makes us human, the ability to express ourselves through art, music, dance, theater, story.  From the very beginning of the human race, people drew pictures on their cave walls, carved toys and figures from animal bones, beat drums and made music and danced around ceremonial bonfires, passed down stories and wisdom to the younger generation. 

There is art within our souls, each one of us, as any parent can see when they watch their toddler grasp a crayon and purposefully create a scribbled masterpiece or delightedly bang her fingers on the keys of grandma’s piano.  But somewhere along the way, usually at a point in time after we’ve begun our formal learning in school, we start to shut the doors to the arts. 

Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” 

Think about that. 

Why is it so hard to keep the arts in our lives as we grow into adulthood?

Now, I can’t sing well.  But that didn’t stop me from singing lullabies to my babies, and it doesn’t stop me from singing loudly, happily along with my favorite tunes in the car.  We don’t all have to be professional artists in order to embrace the arts in our lives, we just have to give ourselves permission. 

This week in the news I saw a story about Scott Hale, an out-of-work welder from Indiana who has been receiving a lot of attention lately due to the snowy lawn ornaments he’s been adding to his front yard.  With time on his hands, he embraced the inspiration when it came to him to sculpt the snow piling up outside his home into grand figures from ancient mythology.  There’s Atlas crouching under the burden of the Earth, and winged Pegasus soaring above the snow, and his own rendition of the Venus de Milo.  Hale is not an artist by profession, but he obviously has an eye for form and beauty, and clearly finds joy in the process of sculpting snow.  The news report concludes by wondering if he might be able to turn his new passion into a job, perhaps as a special events sculptor-for-hire.  That would be really nice, but do we have to be paid in order for something to be considered time well spent?  I just hope he continues to spend time sculpting even if a new career doesn’t pan out.  He has discovered his inner artist.

7 thoughts on “The Artist Within”

  1. Well, when I was in high school, my headmaster told me not to take another arts class (beyond the required 3 credits to graduate) because it would lower my GPA because I wasn’t good in art. Mind you, I’d gotten a B in the class I’d taken and *I wanted to take more art classes!* I took it anyway, but understandably felt that art was not for me. (The arts teachers weren’t all that encouraging either.) Not until I was earning my second bachelor’s degree at RIC did I get encouragement, which led to a minor in art. WOE to the educator who EVER tells one of my children not to do something they like because grades are more important.

    1. I was never encouraged in art either when I was growing up, even though I did clearly love it when I was young. Most of the adults in my life (parents, relatives, teachers) all seemed to view the arts as something that makes for a nice hobby, but nothing to ever take seriously. It wasn’t until I went to college, studying engineering, that I began to see that the arts could be both a path to a career and a way of bringing a sense of fulfillment to all our lives (by fortunate coincidence I lived with three art majors!). Still, it took me many more years to realize I needed to jump off the corporate engineering ship! It is my hope that attitudes are different now, as more people are realizing the importance of design and creativity in the 21st-century world, but I also intend to make sure of that by speaking up, both on this blog and at my kids’ schools! I hope you will too, and thanks for commenting!

    1. Yup, me too, a RI public schools alum. The arts seem to have good support among some of the staff and administrators here in Bristol-Warren, but there are still plenty of locals who trot out the old “makes for a nice hobby but that’s all” belief. Looking around the country, with arts programs being cut left and right, it’s pretty clear that not enough people understand the importance of teaching the arts to everyone. I’ll be posting more on this in the near future!

  2. Great post. Our society takes the artist out of us as we get older. It’s a sad thing.

    Whenever I give workshops to teachers about arts/music integration, I am amazed at how many say they were TOLD by their music teachers or other adults that they couldn’t sing.

    I love that quote you inserted. We are all artists. It’s just a matter of whether or not your artistic flame will be fed or snuffed out. Our job as educators is to feed the flames of our children (and ourselves).

    Thanks for the food for thought.

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