After a busy season of sweet handmade gift making that many of us artists participate in during this time of year, I am often left with the deep desire to make Art (with a capital A) that is not something you can buy. Something you can't hold in your hand or replicate. One of the essential problems we artists have always struggled with is when Art is treated like a throw pillow or something you should print on leggings. A thing to be commodified. Most artists come to the place of being resolved to live within this conundrum. Make products, because no one buys actual art. Or at least that is how it feels sometimes.
If you've bought a piece of art in the last year that serves no other function than hanging on your wall and illuminating your soul, thank you. But this problem is not one to be combatted just by buying art.
We took art out of school long ago, thinking it's not a field people make money in, so why would we teach it? The truth is, taking art out of schools did not stop producing artists. It stopped producing audiences, and stopped producing people who could speak a language that exists without words.
This year, if you can offer one resolution to art, make it this. Sit with art. Listen to art. Find art and love it for a reason you may not yet understand. Find the time to understand it. Love it without having to own it.
Sign yourself up for an art class—one that gets your hands dirty and doesn't involve wine, pre-made canvases, birch trees and sunsets—but one that asks you to look into that part of yourself that has remained silent, aching to be heard. You can find classes at Central Oregon Community College, The Wilds and The Workhouse.
Sign your child up for an art class, just like you would soccer. You don't sign them up for soccer because you think one day they will play in the World Cup; you sign them up because they learn invaluable lessons that we all need to become compelling, engaged adults. Art does that, too.
Art teaches us how to struggle through a problem and still feel successful at the end. It helps people learn that even if something isn't perfect, it can still be loved. It connects us beyond cultures, genders, the ideas of who we are and who we think we are. Art allows us to be spiritual without being burdened by dogma. Art allows us to touch nature and match our own to it.
Recently, a fellow artist suggested that the lack of engagement with art in the local area is because people here are primarily engaged in our natural world, with activities such as hiking and skiing and boating.
That's when I add a gentle reminder that it was an artist named Ansel Adams who trekked into those deep forests with a camera and glass plates almost 100 years ago, bringing back some of the most immense, unbelievable photographs ever seen of the natural world. It was that work that directly inspired the preservation of natural areas. Because that is also what art does: Inspires us— to be better, to do more, and to find ourselves and love what we arrive at.