Put simply, art helps
A colleague of mine recently asked a young girl, “Why does art matter to you?” The bright-eyed, seven-year-old paused for a second, reflected and then responded with certainty: “Art helps me.”
This matter-of-fact reply gripped me, simply because it was so simple and incredibly frank. Her youthful response was stripped of any superfluous language that we adults tend to place on concepts or ideas surrounding art.
Art does help us, and sometimes it can be difficult to understand exactly why. We cannot always put our finger on it, but visual art does make our life more enjoyable. Without realising it, we may receive this “help” in a deeply personal and distinct way.
For many of us, when we hear the word “art” we tend to disconnect from it immediately, feeling that it remains at a distance from our everyday life. Too often we forget that art captures one of the most profound of human experiences: our interpretation of the visual world around us and the depth of human connections.
We can go back as far as the Sulawesi, Indonesia cave art, with hand stencilling dating back to at least 37,900BC. One of the oldest paintings of its type ever discovered in the world, it has become a treasure among prehistoric artworks, with its multitude of overlapping hands pressed against the cave wall. Every time I look at it, I am awestruck, feeling a surge of connection to our human history.
I often visualise these hands and think how similar they are to ours, thousands of years later, and to our ideal of overlapping connection. Like our ancestors, we, too, seek opportunities to use our creative agency and express our identity, our community and our legacy. We, too, seek that deeper connection.
This next decade will look nothing like what we have seen in the past. In a moment such as this, when we recognise that lives are at stake and health is on the line, that our economy is suffering and our society is distressed, we often do not turn our gaze towards the moments that can lift us up, pull us away from the turmoil and draw us together.
Art can be an escape; a way to imagine, to play, to see with a fresh perspective and to express. It can also be a means to connect. And each one of us, regardless of background, hardships or experience, has access to harness all of those experiences.
On December 1, both “A Day without Art” and “Giving Tuesday” are observed. Although they are separate and distinct in terms of their goals and objectives, when combined into one day, they should prompt us to reflect on what a world without art would look like, the ways that visual art has “given” to us personally, and the possibility of giving back.
While helping one another survive this year and in the years to come must be priority, we also must remember to connect with those things that bring us joy. Art will not save our lives, but art does allow us to enhance the very life we live. As shared by American artist Robert Motherwell: “Art is much less important than life, but what a poor life without it.”
This week, I hope you will join me in considering how art, in all its forms, has helped you, your family and friends. I also hope that “Giving Tuesday”, a global effort to encourage support of non-profits, will prompt you to consider supporting our creative and artistic expression as individuals and as a collective.
We should question: “How are we leaving our visual handprints on the Bermuda arts community?”
Put simply, art helps - but we also need your help.
• Risa Hunter, a passionate arts professional with a particular interest in engaging diverse audiences in Western Atlantic visual culture, is the Assistant Director of Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art