by Brian L. Grant MD
I love the arts. Whether music, theater, dance, visual – I love it.
Long before entering medicine, I participated as an enthusiastic amateur in piano, guitar, voice, ceramics, printmaking, theater and other endeavors. Today I still sing in a very fine choir.
Most of my time with the arts is as an audience member or observer. While I have no intention of quitting my day job, I regard myself as no less engaged or committed to the arts as an amateur and observer than if I was a professional in the field.
Art is all around us, in formal ways that we pay to see and in our environment. Fashion, architecture, landscape, and more are informed by individual and collective artistic sensitivity and awareness, not always conscious. We buy and consume based upon art, whether in response to a creative advertisement, or a beautifully designed device, home, or product. To a large degree we don’t notice art until we are in an environment where it is lacking; where designs are purely utilitarian with no eye to how it is experienced emotionally. Such places are sorry and depressing.
One can find many treatises, articles, and books that try to answer the question “Why Art?” But I want to share a recent experience that prompts this entry.
The other night I attended a dance concert of the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. During the second piece I found myself drawn into the discontinuity of the unpredictable movements. I immediately associated and contrasted this to my daily life and the routines that I find myself in and how different the sense of the dance was from a typical day. The latter is largely predictable and draws more on the past. The former – the dance piece, forced me to challenge these assumptions and made me wonder if there were not perhaps some other ways of addressing certain challenges and relationships, leading to better personal, professional and business results. All the while as these thoughts unfolded, I marveled at the process with excitement and resolve to act a bit differently in certain contexts the next day and in the future.
Will a life transform from one good performance? Not likely. But if one surrounds oneself with examples of seeing the world differently through art, literature and even science, and stretches one’s mind as a result – isn’t that what education is about?
I can’t imagine a better experience or a world without art. It deserves all the support and participation we can give. Art is not optional in a civilized society. We can live without it, but why bother?