Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Why Art?

A new art exhibit, “Remember Where You Come From,” goes on display soon at Wilder Center.

Why do we display art? Our first and fourth floor “galleries” provide venues for rotating exhibitions by local artists. What value does art bring to an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in our communities, especially for the most vulnerable?

You may have your own answer. Mine appears below.

Art brings variety to our senses. Typically, it decorates our environment with beauty. Sometimes, it confronts us face-to-face with ugliness. An environment with art stimulates and provokes any or all of our senses and creates impacts on our bodies and minds.

Art expands understanding and imagination. A book about poetry, which I read long ago, described a good poem as “a new door to an old, familiar room” – perhaps an apt metaphor for all art. Art brings new perspective on everyday personal and social issues, thus opening our eyes to new ways to improve our lives.

Art liberates. Artists rarely confine themselves to convention. They push the boundaries of current thought. They frequently question the legitimacy of common cultural beliefs and practices. Totalitarian governments typically have great disdain for artists; our freedom very much depends upon and reflects our art.

Art is therapeutic. The artist finds fulfillment and meaning in creation, which provides renewed energy to overcome physical, mental, social, and spiritual obstacles in life. The viewer can find fulfillment and meaning as well, either by interpreting the artist’s messages or by recasting the artwork in light of the viewer’s experiences and perspectives.

Art creates connections among human beings. A formal opening for an exhibit convenes many people. On a daily basis, interaction occurs by happenstance – two or more people happen to arrive at the same place, looking at the same piece of art; they engage in conversation (about the art or about something else).

The purpose of the Amherst H. Wilder Gallery is to present works of art that foster connections and conversations that broaden and deepen our understanding of ourselves and of one another.

That statement succinctly indicates why we feature art in our building. We should never doubt its importance to our mission. As we end this first decade of the 21st century, social and economic trends have created a collision between increasing community needs, but stable or declining resources to meet those needs. Solutions for our communities, our nations, and our world require creativity, imagination, and energy. For our part, we have the goal to convene and engage members of our community to work on the issues we face. Art inspires, supports, and motivates us in that endeavor.

(We cordially invite you to attend the formal opening and reception of our newest exhibit – on Thursday, March 4, from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Wilder Center.)

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