It was a beautiful autumn Sunday in Sheboygan, and the gallery housed in a converted church
was filled to capacity with poets, visual artists, and disciples of the aesthetic. Yet I didn't feel like I belonged.
Sitting just outside of the gallery, I listened as each poet presented his or her work, the irony of being in a converted church not lost on me--a temple where parishioners once faithfully looked to a higher power for purpose and enlightenment in their lives, now a simple chapel where artists congregate, perhaps to find some type of spiritual enlightenment through the arts.
Artists, and I use this word in a very broad sense, often seem to bear their crosses--the burden of their work--very publicly through gallery presentations, publishing, or simply reading to a coffee-house crowd. Sometimes this is done out of sheer joy, an offering of thanks to the providence of an intangible muse. Occasionally their presentation comes as a result of great pain and suffering, quite possibly a need for penance which only the artist understands.
Their metaphorical crosses are planted--displayed for all to see. Yet I always ask myself why. There is no basic need to create or enjoy art. Artists are often stereotyped as depressed, downtrodden alcoholics unable to hold a "real" job. When funding is cut, the arts are always the first to be denied, with local and national grant funding suffering a drought upon her waters. From where does this self-cruciation arise?
I found the answer to my question this past Sunday watching artists approach the rostrum of this converted church, their poems and discussions of art homilies to the roomful of followers--followers possibly looking for meaning in their own lives, individuals seeking inspiration, believers who simply enjoy the offerings, and perhaps a soul or two reluctantly pulled from a noontime football game.
The answer for me lies in one simple, monosyllabic word: Faith. I believe that followers of art can and do find meaning in their lives through practice and appreciation. There is a morality among artists, perhaps more in spirit than in practice. And there is an awareness in many artists that their work may not be entirely of their own, that they are simply the instrument of something greater. The power and importance of art is based on this intangible abstraction known as faith. I had the fortune to be surrounded by it.
It was a beautiful autumn Sunday in Sheboygan, and the gallery housed in a converted church was filled to capacity with poets, visual artists, and disciples of the aesthetic....And I was where I belonged.
I'd like to share a poem written by Ed Weirstein which was published in "Masquerades & Misdemeanors." I do this without his permission, faithful that I will receive his forgiveness:
"I'm not where I belong"for B
Well, what can you expect really?
The universe is so vast
and we are so small,
What are the odds
of occupying the proper space
at the correct time?
If we ever get it right,
once in a great while perhaps,
it's like a gift,
of the present.
Sometimes maybe it's terpsing a tango
in Buenos Aires,
and sometimes just talking
with a friend in a tea shop,
but for then, you know
you are where you belong
and it's a gift for sure.