As the co-founder of Books, Brushes & Bands for Education and as a parent it became very necessary for me to begin an organization which would make high quality fine arts education available not only for my own sons, but also for their peers as well. In my mind, it must be given more priority for all of our children everywhere. The answer was not to move away and find it somewhere else, but to work on developing a conversation between parents and their children so that each group demands and grows to understand the need for it in their everyday lives. It’s not just one kind of art, but the combination of literary, visual, and musical arts which can live in concert.
These become the seeds of personal development in our youth. It is a way of seeing the world that opens doors to invention of all kinds.
There are different levels and degrees of education. Growing up, I always sought more understanding of the subjects which were presented to me in school. Many years later, I clearly see that my interest and my desire for the arts have grown into a life – a life that is a detailed collage of experiences, skills, memories and development of myself as a whole person related to art exploration.
Without the support of family to which creativity and the many adults who pushed me to think a little differently, I would not have the business skills which I have today. Because of the passion of my middle school art teacher, I found the world of calligraphy and hand lettering that is the center of my life as well as the focus of my business.
From this discipline, I have learned to love and understand the beauty of the alphabet, the physical structure of letters and how they are formed – stroke by stroke. Most important, I have developed a realization and a better understanding of the powerful nature of words, their placement on a page, and how they communicate meaning.
My pursuit to further understand the connection of the arts in our everyday life is in constant motion. I have continued my education well beyond my degree earned at Purdue University, West Lafayette, to better acquaint myself with related topics. I have also taken the opportunity to explore new paths of both writing and art making. My studies at The Book and Paper School of Columbia College at Chicago, the School of the Art Institute and countless hours with Master Calligrapher, Reggie Ezell have all given me tools that not only developed the technical side of my business, but have opened up the door to new understanding and application of going beyond just making a living to “making a life.”
The arts in their many capacities are powerful tools – affording each individual a unique direction. Each of us comes to the experience from a different place and from there travels down various paths. We never truly arrive because there is always more to learn, more to explore, and more to desire with each experience that we encounter. The arts are an incredible collaboration of disciplines which interconnect with each other and teach us about ourselves. Learning an instrument or singing in a choir and recording our daily thoughts in a journal might help us gain insight into how the music makes us feel, how singing or performing with other people affects not only us, but the audience that applauds our show. Learning how to paint on canvas or draw on paper illuminates the way we see our visual world through different eyes. Reading and understanding language helps us to appreciate not only a way to communicate our ideas, but translates into a method of understanding others so that we can react effectively and with meaning.
The serious study and participation in the arts requires a slower pace so that we look and listen more attentively to detail – to composition of the whole. With as much intensity and beauty which exists in our world, it is unfortunate that more focus is not given to disciplines which offers so much for personal development.
Today, we need the opportunity more than ever to learn to sit quietly, absorb the moment, and then react to our world through the expression of making music, painting, drawing, sculpting, writing, singing, and dancing so that we may record for future generations all that we see and feel around us. From the beginning of time, man has found it a necessity to make marks and record the culture and thinking of the time in which he lived. It is only fair to our generation now and in the future that they have the skills to carry that forward.
Engaging in the arts affords us a chance to discover our individuality and sheds light on our interconnection as human beings. For instance, the young person who learns music or finds a medium which they like, may derive comfort and energy from it instead of turning to violence or detrimental behavior.
If children are never given an opportunity to truly explore this path to their soles, they may never know what lies inside – the creativity that we use to solve problems, to gain compassion for our fellow man, to invent a cure, to respect the ideas of others, to understand how our personal ideas fit into the world at large. As a population, it takes all of us working together to the best of our ability and capability to move ahead positively. If we don’t know what is inside, how can we use or develop the best solution or impact the most creative expression, if we are never given the chance to explore the arts and retrieve our personal treasures?
So many of the skills honed in a creative pursuit are the ones we use in our professional and personal lives. Presenting ourselves, our work, and our ideas come from the basics of generating thoughts on paper, accomplishing an instrument, performing in a play, reciting poetry, or entering an arts competition makes a lasting imprint in our minds. It’s not just the end result that leaves the impression, but the crucial steps in the process in which skills of perseverance, discipline, accountability and responsibility are built.
Before a child becomes bogged down with the bills and the business of adult responsibility, he/she should have the chance to begin the exploration. During childhood, we have the time and the uncluttered mind, to learn an instrument, write poetry, paint pictures, create sculpture, sing in a choir, perform and exhibit in a public space. By beginning, there exists a start. A start which can flourish over time, if at least there is some broad exploration and access to serious instruction.
It is all so fundamental to human development, yet we make choices to eliminate it, disregard its power, choose to not understand it or make it unavailable because it takes money and time to plan for its implementation.
It is a way of seeing the world that opens doors to invention of all kinds. The price that we pay for its exclusion may be the highest price paid yet.