In a way, we're all artists. Or at least, have the potential to be.
I'm not talking about being able to paint, sculp, make music, dance, compose poetry, or such. Being artistic is much more than that.
It's an inner quality of openness, creativity, spontaneity, expressiveness and much else that can't be put into words.
You can be an artistic anything. Plumber. Bartender. Lawyer. Housecleaner. Pilot.
Or... Mayor. City Manager. City councillor. Department head.
I wish we had more artists among City of Salem leadership. This would go a long way toward making Salem, Oregon a more vibrant place to live, work, and play.
I got to thinking about this after talking with some friends today. We discussed what went on at the Salem City Club's "My New Year's Wish for Salem" meeting last Friday.
I told the group that before the meeting I anticipated a pretty typical panel presentation. The panelists would wish for an end to homelessness, hunger, poverty, and other social problems.
There would be clapping after each wish. Because how can you not applaud for good things to happen in Salem?
But otherwise I envisioned myself sitting at a table, sipping coffee, placidly listening to other people talk about their New Year's wishes for Salem.
Fortunately, as mentioned in my post, Carlee Wright and Brian Hart brought a burst of energetic artistry into the City Club meeting room. Everyone was invited to write their own wishes on large brightly-colored post-it notes.
These were placed on a big board, where they could be perused after the meeting. This exercise was surprisingly pleasing for me.
Not only did I enjoy writing down my own wish; seeing the highly diverse, creative, and passionate wishes of others was equally enjoyable.
Today my friends and I wondered why this sort of thing doesn't happen more often in Salem.
Why don't City officials actively encourage this sort of blue-sky, brainstorming, speak-your-mind, break-out-of-the box community artistry?
Those of us of a certain age, such as my 65, have fond memories of Steve Martin's "I'm a wild and crazy guy" bit.
Which, damn it, I couldn't find on You Tube. But a few minutes of watching Martin's King Tut time-traveled me back to his oh-so-appealing wild and crazy persona.
(Yeah, I know, youngun's, Martin may just look like a stupid-acting guy to you; believe me, he was, and is, way more than that.)
We need more wildness and craziness here in Salem. Doesn't have to be of the howl at the moon variety. Or the run naked through the woods variety. I'd be content with a whole lot tamer.
Like more community gatherings such as last Friday's City Club meeting.
Where people can share wild and crazy ideas about what could and should happen here. Where City leaders say yes, yes, yes to whatever, since there is no no, no, no when it comes to artistic expression.
Feel it and share it, no holding back.
Today my friends and I talked about how much energy there is in this town, how much creativity, how much enthusiasm. It gets bottled up when people feel what's the point? they won't listen.
Our City's elected officials and top management haven't yet learned that leadership isn't so much about control, as about inspiration. A good leader lets other people get out in front. Salem will truly blossom when citizens feel this is our city, and we can make it marvelous.
That is art. What we need are City officials who recognize the beauty of it.
Update: reading the TIME magazine story about Person of the Year Pope Francis, I came across a quote that seemed apt here. Just substitute "City of Salem" for "Church":
"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather that a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security."