After listening to Burnett and Wright speak yesterday at a Salem City Club meeting on "The Crucial Role of the Arts in Our Community," I got to ask a question. It went something like this.
Carlee, I heard you say "express yourselves." As someone who writes almost every day, I know that I feel better when what is inside me is expressed to the outside world, and I then get responses from people about what I've written. But there has to be more to why people embrace art than this. Hopefully you can give me a fuller answer than what I've just said.
Now, I've got to confess that I don't remember much of what Wright said in her response to me. It certainly was in line with my question, as was Burnett's reply to me. I recall that one or both of them said it is indeed nice for artists to get responses from others about what they've created.
Leaving the City Club meeting at the Willamette Heritage Center, I walked down the stairs with Chris Hoy, a Salem city councilor.
Chatting with him about the talks, I said that when my wife and I go to the Salem Art Fair, we're careful about what we say about booth art, since occasionally we've made a negative comment, then saw that the artist was sitting on the other side of a partition. Hoy said that he's a photographer who has had his work exhibited.
"Do you hang around and listen to what people say about your photos?" I asked him. "Sometimes," Hoy said. That spurred me to observe that often I don't read Facebook comments after I've shared a link to a blog post I've written, because the comments can be both mean and uninformed.
Hoy and I then agreed that because art springs from the mind of someone, and is a personal expression of how they see the world, it feels much more problematic to critique someone's art face-to-face with them, while social media and online communications in general facilitate more negativity and nastiness because the other person isn't there in cyberspace.
So expressing ourselves can be risky.
If we only sing in the shower, the risk is minimal. If we choose to get up on stage and sing in front of an audience, there's the possibility of getting only a smattering of applause. Or even some boos. (Of course, we need to remember that just as we're entitled to share our creative impulses, other people are entitled to respond with their own reactions.)
Yet we humans still love to express ourselves.
Burnett said that this gives us a sense of how we stand in time and place. I agree. I suck at drawing, painting, and music, but I've always enjoyed writing. Partly it is because I never know what I'm going to say until I see it on my laptop's screen. The words come of themselves, though they come from me.
A deeper part of me that I'm not really aware of until I make an effort to create a blog post, book, Christmas letter, or whatever. When what is within comes out, it's pleasurable. Not orgasm-like pleasurable (unfortunately). More like when you really need to go to the bathroom, and what is demanding to come out with such urgency does, there's a sense of relief.
Until the next urge arises.
Carlee Wright, shown above in an artistic photo that the Great God Google Images bestowed upon me, said that she had an urge to share her love of all things art'y in Salem after her days at the Statesman Journal ended. Appealingly, she went counter to the digital trend and decided to produce a -- gasp! -- paper publication, Press Play Salem.
I liked how Wright talked differently about the oft-heard geometry of Salem: the nothing-much that sits an hour from Portland, Eugene, the coast, and the mountains, where you really can do something. Not true, she said. "We are the center, not an hour away from everything."
Adding, "I often hear people say that I don't want to go to Portland, fight the traffic, find a place to park, and pay an exorbitant ticket price. It's so convenient to go out here in Salem!" Which is absolutely true. Three hours of parking is free in downtown Salem, and it isn't difficult to find a space on the street or in the parking garages.
Burnett shared her own take on the arts via a slide presentation. I learned that the Salem Art Association is 100 years old in 2019, though it began under a different name in 1919. The Salem Art Fair started in 1949, so it is now 70 years old. (Just like me! Can I get in free?)
She presented interesting information about how cultural events boost the Salem economy, noting that we have ten cultural institutions in this town. Burnett said that when corporations decide whether to come to Salem, they view the arts/culture scene here as part of the livability standard that has to be met.
Lastly, I like the new logo of the Salem Art Association. It's, well, artistic.