On a daily basis, more news headlines from contradictory sources flash across my various device screens than I can keep up with. Everywhere you look, there are inflammatory statements, stories, and notices, I find myself asking, “whose responsibility is it to serve as the peacemaker?”
As I have been asking myself that question, one quote continues to return to me. “When words fail, art speaks.” It occurs to me that perhaps the responsibility to serve as a peacemaker - not a mere bystander, not a peace-HOPER, not a peace-WISHER, but a peaceMAKER, by CRAFTING and MAKING - falls in the hands of the artist. Art has a uniquely powerful ability to captivate audiences in a way that no newscaster or politician has or ever will be able to. A painting, sometimes felt emotionally before understood analytically, invokes feelings that call upon the most basic elements of humanity. Participating in the arts is an exercise in empathy, and a unifying experience.
Take the Mona Lisa for example. At the Louvre in Paris, this small painting (measuring only approximately 3’ x 2’) hangs on a blank wall in a far-room of the sprawling building. Flocks of people crowd around it, silently waiting for their turn to experience this iconic piece. Without speaking, all spectators, from all different countries and all different backgrounds, none of a higher priority or status in that moment, wait with baited breath for the chance to experience this chilling portrait.
Visual art is not the only peacemaking and communal medium. The theatre begs to be talked about in this scenario as well. Each night, hundreds of individuals gather in a dark space and listen to the words of a few select people in the spotlight. The production has the undivided attention of an entire room as the performers do their best to invoke emotion, sympathy, empathy, and heart into those sitting silently before them. How often do newscasters or politicians have this undistracted, uninterrupted attention? This is a unique opportunity afforded to those who work in the theatre. Dance and music are similarly given this opportunity, as they often wordlessly tug on the heartstrings of an audience and strive to give them a glimmer of truth and emotion in their performances.
I felt my calling and was inspired to recreate myself as a professional artist later in my career. Instead of settling on a retirement path, I’ve dedicated myself to this artistic peaceMAKING, honoring the drive that brought me here and my personal desire to bring joy, happiness, positivity, and hope into a world that sometimes seems shrouded in darkness. Art provides a beacon of light. I use my original work and workshops to do my part in shining this light - both as a means to exercise other’s empathy when they look at a painting of a sweet animal, or as a way to share a communal experience in an online or in-person course. I am proud to be among a community of artistic peacemakers, and truly believe in the power our work holds. If you are an artist, or an art supporter, or a lover of creativity, you are a part of this movement! Thank you for joining me; the work we are doing is important.