TxCCDA Conference | Why does art matter?

I saw a sign one time in an antique store or coffee shop that said, “The “earth” without “art” is just “eh”. I feel like some art teacher said this and it just stuck, but if you think about it, the statement is spot on even if it is just an elimination of letters from a word.

On my last day in Texas I roamed Dallas as I was waiting for my flight home. I wandered the city and got lost on purpose only to find the best tacos and beautiful wall art that is splattered all throughout Deep Ellum. Deep Ellum is anything but “eh”. In fact is is so full of color and culture that I was a tad bit out of my element, but I loved it so much as I was still coming off the high of the conference.

The last night I was there was spent listening to Stevie Walker-Webb, a local artist and playwright. He wrote a groundbreaking play titled, “The Wizard of Oz-ish”. It is the same story, but told through the personal stories of the children who personified the characters. I have to say it was remarkable hearing story after story about how art attracted these children and then ultimately was used to help change the course of their lives. As Stevie dramatically retells his childhood story of being a lost kid in Waco, he closes out the conference with a reminder to give our lives away as he said, “Mentors are the guardians of opportunity!”. He says it while casually glancing at his lifelong mentor who sat front row with tears in his eyes as he saw his prayers answered through the life of Stevie. Stevie’s mentor is a faithful man in his late 50s who had nothing in common with Stevie, but he knew he had to create opportunities for kids like Stevie, so he reopened a run down community theatre where kids could come and learn how to express themselves through different mediums and expressions of art.

Many years after that theatre reopened, a large group of community leaders sat and watched children tell their stories through the art of drama. It gave them a voice, but more so it gave them an opportunity to unveil their beauty and unique design as they shared their stories. We watched pieces of the play, “Herstory”. It was the story of an immigrant girl struggling to understand her story in this time in history. She could barely hold back the tears as she recited her lines of fear and inclusion. We later learned that she had become a US citizen that day.

This is why we need art. It has the power to tell a story or share something so beautiful as it contributes to culture and community. It has the power to also create culture as it creates opportunity. From 200 year old churches that were built so that you would look up and be reminded of heaven to murals on a side street, art matters. It matters because without it everything else is just “eh”.

Jen Young