Monday, June 21, 2010

On Art and Service

Only in the West has art lost its purpose, its place in the daily lives of the society in which it was created. Paintings, especially, seem to serve only as tangible memory, removed from our day-to-day discourse. Art, in the sense most of us know it, is more or less autonomous...but why? Does it have to be? How can we bring art back to the everyday, not only to the worlds of spirituality, ritual, and religion, but to the everyday act of creating policy, to motivate and inspire people to act on behalf of their communities?

I ask these questions as someone who has just spent the last few months doing the work of service. I saw what a relatively small, committed group of people could do if they are willing to put forth the time and energy. I was often surprised when the energy as well as the emotional and physical resources came when I thought I had no more to give...

Can art serve?

Here in Philadelphia, we have many organizations that strive to answer that question: the Mural Arts Program, the Village of Arts and Humanities, and a multitude of others. My question is this: what happens once the murals are painted and the mosaics are in place? Are the neighbors more invested, not just in their small neighborhoods, but in their greater community?

Can my art serve?

I can begin my allowing my experiences in service inform and inspire my art. I can learn from those who are already using art to serve. Eventually, I can join them.


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