I recently visited a Barns & Noble in Baltimore with a friend, the one within walking distance of the Aquarium (which is fantastic, might I add). To get to the B&N I had to cross a walk way, or a bridge you could say that crosses over a water way. On that walk way I saw a man setting up a large piece of cardboard. He was a small, worn looking blank male, with one eye that didn’t point in the same direction as the other. His clothes were worn and he was very quiet about his business, as if he were trying not to impede on anyone’s space. Walking to the store I noticed him only because I am from a community where street-whatever-have-you is not common place.
I had my fun in the B&N. I ran my eyes through every bookshelf before settling down with a book on physics, one on the periodic table of elements, and a copy of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. I normally end up walking out of a bookstore with a fantasy novel of some kind, but I was feeling brainy that day.
Exiting the bookstore (I was there for maybe an hour) I saw that the man had set up studio on his large piece of cardboard. He was painting on long, narrow canvases, and a few of these canvases were sitting out next to a money jar. When we were passing by, I looked down and I saw the painting on top was that of a dolphin, its black silhouette leaping out of an ocean that glistened and was made up of multiple shades of blue. It was simple, elegant, charming, and caught my eye.
We’d already come to the crosswalk when I turned around and came back to the painter. Here I noticed that, while his clothes may be worn, and his face hadn’t seen a razor in several weeks, his paintbrushes and his paints were not cheap. His supplies were well kept and looked after. I bent down and I tucked a five into his jar, I mentally called it “paint money”, and looked down at the dolphin painting. I told him that I really liked his paintings, and shy ninny that as I am, took off as quickly as I had come. He’d smiled at me, giving the warmest smile I’d ever received from a stranger. When I ran back up to my friend he gave me a very confused look.
“Artists are important,” was all I said in reply.
I think we, as a community, forget too often the importance of the artist. Be it writers, painters, poets, sculptures, dancers, musicians, etc, we often forget or never even realize how important they are. The big time artist and the local artist, we need to understand that it’s these people throughout history had been integral hands in the formation of all human culture throughout human history.
Try and imagine a culture without a media, without the paintings, the pictures, the writings, the music, all entertainment, and everything else artists provide. There isn’t a culture when you remove these things. It’s quiet, colorless, without song or stories.
One of the things that makes humans unique is our imagination, our ability to fabricate things that have no place in basic survival, but serve to feed and form our minds and our souls. (I still regret not asking about buying that man’s painting. I still think about it a month from now, even after the details of the painting have left my mind.) Perhaps you don’t think yourself much an artist, or maybe you are one, either way, try and remember when you hear the radio, when you see a local painter or dancer, remember that is people such as these that have made the human experience so unique and beautiful. They are the creators and feeders of our culture.
Support your artists.
Artists are important.