The power of the arts…

1 09 2011
Often Awesome the Series #9–a work of art

Its awe inspiring, humbling, and deeply emotional when people come together and manage to do something out of compassion and action. It was a blizzard of emotions, when so many people came to my mom’s aid, who came over and offered their time, or called, sent letters, and shared of themselves what they could.

Its not an easy experience in any direction.  The people who come forward and offer so much, leave us ever grateful.

I have been so fortunate with people responding to my cries for hope and for action.  Whether out of love for me or remembrance of my mother; out of empathy for my mother’s loss, out of celebration for her life or for the positive action of doing something for others who still live.  There are those who join me out of hatred for this disease, out of anger for what it has taken.  There are those who do it out of a simple act of creativity.

For 5 years I have done what I can to bring action and voice, have ridden and sought help, had donations made and links passed along.  So many have listened and helped, joined the rides, volunteered, donated time, energy, resources and ultimately have helped me to reach goals that I hope make a difference in the quest to find a cure.

As I do this, my dearest desire is that no one else has to suffer as my mother did; as my dad does.  My mother and father were married for 36 years.  They built a life together and raised a family, navigated troubles and hard times, gave it all the love they had, and healed and nourished each other.  They looked forward to a time of celebrating what they created and of sharing the joy and insight of that, while walking into the future.  This disease took that away.

One of the legacies that I owe my father is a passion to create.  I’ve drawn most of my life, painted, taught myself carving (the hard way), photoshop, and photography.  I took classes, theorized, read, and always return to creating; whether its in a bowl of soup, or in scribbles that take shape in notebooks.  I think it is perhaps my way of seeing, of being able to share ideas, evaluation and emotionally deconstruct art that has endeared me to the occasional artist and allowed for a kinship to form.

One such kinship was with a woman named Martha Knox, who was working for me at Staufs years ago, while she was still working on her art degree.  She has long since surpassed that moment and is a proud wife and mother, with a beautiful child and a loving partner and she is a creative, furious dynamo.

Martha and I years ago felt that the blank walls of Staufs offered a potential for reaching out into the community and bringing the unique voices of Columbus alive to our walls.  We crafted a proposal and got permission to host a monthly rotation of art and for years it was a mix of professional, amateur, student, and staff collective art work that has had a number of surprising successes and occasional odd and awkward moments.  To be fair it probably ran best when she was putting the energy behind it, but overall it has been a tradition that continues and I’m proud to have had a part in starting it.

In addition, for the last 3 years, Staufs has managed to hold a one month art show whose work is dedicated to charity.  Originally, it was my idea just because it became so clear to me after my mother died, how important the wealth of fliers that were pasted all over our public board were; so many were promoting a a cry to help fight for causes –cancer, MS, autism, clean water for Africa, relief in Haiti…the list goes on an on.  I began to see this as a call from within our community for action and aid; for awareness.

So often the art community can be the lungs for this awareness.  The Often Awesome art shows are a prime example. It seemed obvious to me that any charity show that happened at Staufs would be a gift to those people fighting such an awareness.  So when I created it, I contacted various artists who had shown before and talked to staff and told them: you decide what your work sells for, what you’re supporting, you write a message about what your doing and why, you determine how much goes to where.  I contacted local media and let them know what we were doing and we did what we could.

Many of the creative staff who decided to participate the first year, knew of what my family had gone through and an overwhelming about of the artists also defaulted and thanked me for my asking to be a part of this by offering to donate a portion of the art sold to the ALS charities that I championed for; it was a deeply humbling experience and I can’t thank them enough.

3 people stick in my mind quite clearly.

The first is Brad Larkin.  Brad worked for Staufs for a long time, but his soul has always been in music and painting.  His abstract, conceptual, mythological, universes are amusing, colorful, vibrant, and powerful.  He was one of the first to offer to help the ALS cause.

The second that sticks with me is Yotam Zohar, who is teaching art out in NY now.  Yotam’s story is also a tale woven with ALS as his step mother when he was young also passed away from ALS.  His memories are ghostly and fleeting, but his emotion is palpable and his artwork is amazing.

The third is Shiva Shakeri, who also lost her mom to ALS; her story is perhaps the most private of all.

There were many artists who participated and I have shared images and names in previous posts, but I wanted to mention at least these amazing 3 again: mostly because I still know them and for 2 of them, the fact that they were touched by ALS, long before I knew them, is a legacy of how deeply this disease is affecting.

I would like to say that all of the charity shows we hosted were a rousing success; but truthfully they have not been.  Whether the nature of the space or the lack of press that the local media failed to respond to, the plummeting support for arts in the community…or some other factor beyond all of that….all of them have been fantastic in their intent and compassionate application- yet none of them are as inspiring as the overwhelming support that you see in the Often Awesome.

Yet, I don’t want to dwell over much on the success or failure, based on money raised, the truth is I want to thank and celebrate that our community could come together.  I am proud that individuals could add their compassionate voices in a way that even quietly resting on walls, could make noise.  I hope Staufs never stops holding these shows and I hope one day that the place will flood with excitement and media and will brim with enthusiastic artists and amazing art.  I would love to see it create it a collage of the many lives looking to make a change and show a passion for bringing love and hope into the world through their creative and activist hands.  I look forward to that possibility and potential with all my heart.

I hope it catches fire…

burning all of our limitations away.

It will be Often Awesome!

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