Home > At Play, Post A Week 2014 > Art, The Big Yes

Art, The Big Yes

Much of our lives involve the word ‘no.’  In school we are mostly told, ‘Don’t do it this way. Do it that way.’ But art is the big yes.  In art, you get a chance to make something where there was nothing.
  – Marvin Bell

 

            In my earliest memories, art was ‘no.’ I became convinced that art did not like me.  Jittery with anticipation during an elementary class art time, I waited as patiently as a eager child could to get started on the self-portraits we would draw that day.  I was wearing my red smock, the one I loved to wear because it meant I was going to be doing something special.  Art, the big yesAll through the previous night, I imagined sitting at my wooden desk–the humble precursor to a real artist’s easel–stroking and dabbing my way to an incredibly lifelike image of myself.  I had no idea whether a ounce of talent lurked within in me nor did I care.

            My teacher, Mrs. P, distributed the crayons to each child, but when she reached my desk, she made a loud announcement.  Since I was so dark, she said, I could not use the flesh-colored crayon. I must use the brown one.  B-r-o-w-n. Not flesh-colored, like all of the other children, who by then had turned to stare at me, a specimen under a microscope.  I learned to dislike art that day. It was not for me, I concluded.  Art was for the children with flesh-colored crayons.

           African Dancer1 By the time I reached high school, however, I wanted art.  Not the drawing kind but the art that involved words, the art that would give me a voice—writing. After earning a high grade on an assignment by the toughest English teacher in the school, I fell in love with the idea of expression through writing. I dreamed then of studying writing  in college and gazed wistfully at the nondescript brick building from which journalists pumped out one of the city’s newspapers.

            But I said ‘no’ to art back then to pursue more practical living.  Instead of celebrating ideas and writing words, I dutifully typed and filed them in an office to make a practical living.  Practicality served me well by paying the bills and affording a few luxuries along the way.

            But art beckons—in museums, on vacant walls, on the street, after waiting and waiting and forgiving all of the times I said ‘no.’ I wonder, doesn’t everyone have some art inside, some creativity that, even if we never make a living at it, deserves at least, in whatever small way, to live?

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