The arts are fine

Published 7:12 pm Monday, September 9, 2019

LaGrange Resident

Is anybody but me impressed with the commitment to the fine arts LaGrange has made? 

Think about it – a town this size that supports an art museum, Sweetland Amphitheatre, a ballet company, the Azalea Storytelling Festival, a symphony, a theater group, not to mention additional offerings at LaGrange College. This is in a time when the arts always seem to be the first victim of budget cuts and austerity programs. 

Now, please know that I value the arts without having the slightest clue of how to create anything of artistic merit. In fifth grade, the cool kids played the xylophone. My assigned instrument was the sticks. In sixth grade, when I was getting to be husky, the music teacher decided my best contribution to the music program would be to push the piano on and off stage. 

In junior high, I thought I’d found my artistic niche in ceramics. I was fascinated by the whole clay-shaping-kiln thing. I felt sure I could be a skilled potter, a maker of delicate pieces of beauty that would rival the best artisans in China. My first piece was — in my mind — a small, perfectly-formed bowl, with subtle layers of glaze so stunning that I knew my mother would keep it with her special-occasion glassware and use it only at holidays. When I presented it to her, she looked at it without speaking for a moment, a pause which I interpreted as having had her breath taken away. 

She examined it from multiple angles and then declared, “An ashtray! How practical you are!”

I took an art appreciation course in college that I truly enjoyed, even if I didn’t always get it. Besides lectures, we also had to break into small evening study groups under the guidance of a graduate student TA. When we looked at Picasso’s “The Red Armchair,” the TA asked what I thought Picasso was trying to express. Believing that art required honesty I spoke my mind, saying, “That a linebacker has closed on a running back at the line of scrimmage and shoved his nose all the way around to the side of his face.” 

My TA looked pained. “You know she’s a woman?” he asked.  I shrugged. 

“She shouldn’t have run off-tackle, then.” 

Despite my lack of artistic genes, I am fascinated with and in awe of those who have them. Although we are going through a period of time in which our culture seems attracted to wealth and media fame more than creativity, history says that it is creativity that will be remembered. The architecture of the Greek and Roman empires, the art of the Renaissance, the music of the Baroque period — these are the ideas that endure and define civilizations. 

I’m proud of LaGrange for participating in that.