“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” Dr. Martin Luther King
“…then what are we fighting for?” Winton Churchill – when asked to cut funding for the arts in favour of the war effort.
“Art washes away from the soul, the dust of every day life.” Pablo Picasso
Times are bad. Really bad… Mass shootings, political unrest, natural disasters, sex abuse scandals, threat of nuclear war, poverty, illness… I could go on. How do we even get ourselves out of bed in the morning? I suppose everyone has a way to cope. After all, here we are, right? But as artists –and by artists I mean anyone involved in creative work– we may ask ourselves, what is the use? What practical purpose does my writing, painting, poetry, photography, music, dance, woodworking, quilting, sculpting, and so on, and so on, serve?
I began this piece with those quotes for a reason. They encapsulate the purpose for art in all its forms. To shine a light in the darkness. To give an outlet for our emotions, be that joy expressed in laughter or deepest sorrow when we are moved to tears. Without art, without creativity, we are automatons: eating, sleeping, working, consuming. Repeat.
The arts allow us to escape but for a brief time from the troubles of real life. Art is good for the mind, for the heart, for the soul. It helps us articulate our feelings, gives us cathartic release. Why do you think we sing songs and recite poetry at funerals? Because the music or the beautiful verses give us a channel for our grief.
So if you’re ever asking yourself what’s the point, remind yourself that you as an artist, in whatever form you create, are one of the stars in the darkness.