January 22, 2021
I have been involved in the arts my entire life. My fondest memories as a kid who loved to create include performing as “Dorothy” in The Wiz, rehearsing for “Perma Do” in Snow White and the Seven Homies, and calling the show as the stage manager for my high school’s musical, The Music Man. As an adult, I often reflect on the many lessons I learned while participating in the arts. These experiences have been critical to my academic success, professional career, and ability to serve in society as a well-rounded citizen.
Early in my artistic journey, I was introduced to people who were ethnically, socially, and culturally different. Arts spaces typically welcome people of varying beliefs and lifestyles, and requires them to work together to complete a project. With the task in mind, participants quickly realize there isn’t enough time to consider individual characteristics and values. They may not understand their fellow creative’s personal choices, but they are all now affiliated by artistic priorities. Working together towards the goal helps to shift the focus from social and personal discussions to innovative conversations and solutions. Even if people joined the effort for various reasons, everyone involved is committed to collaborating for the sake of a quality result. Oftentimes, the different perspectives and backgrounds contribute to the creative process. Participants also continually learn more about each other, and recognize additional commonalities. Usually at the end of the extended time together, the mutual professional respect evolves to personal friendships. Artistic spaces challenge people to release their judgement and bias, which then allows for authentic bonds to form with people who they may have otherwise never met.
I once worked for an opera company, though I knew nothing about opera. Being in that environment everyday, I learned so much about the art form, and even developed an appreciation for it. I established relationships with passionate singers and musicians from all walks of life. I even started learning Italian from an eldely language teacher who also shared all the amazing food and culture from her home country. One friendship in particular was formed with a well-known and accomplished conductor. Our shared preference of work ethic and communication progressed to an unexpected bond. He was a white man that was more than twice my age, but our shared love for Mexican food resulted in frequent meals together. I learned so much from someone that was completely different from when and how I grew up. My background in the arts continues to remind me to embrace things I know nothing about, open myself to new experiences, and seek connections in unique situations.
So much of what is happening in the world is because people are afraid of what they can’t comprehend. If every child participated in the arts, they would all experience similar lessons of collaboration, openness, empathy, social tolerance, and fearlessness. They would understand that even if they don’t agree with someone’s personal choices, they should at least have enough compassion and grace to coexist with them.
We all deserve the arts because it will maintain our humanity and make us better people.