This talk was first shared when Nate recently spoke at the local Kiwanis meeting here in Goshen, Ind. on December 8, 2016. We were encouraged by the audience response that morning, including a former school administrator standing and apologizing for the way that artists are treated in the broader culture. Wow! We are sharing here as well and welcome your thoughts!
Speaking at a conference, May 2017
“I am going to start out by telling you that I will read this – because I have learned from creating many, many things, and embarrassing myself on stage more times than I care to count, that I am not especially good at improvising.
So…Why does art matter? More specifically, why does art matter to you? Why does it matter enough to me, that at age 40, with very little financial success, to continue to make it the cornerstone of my career? The answer is not easy to articulate, but it is, in fact all around us. The car you drive, the clothes you wear, the spoon and bowl and the sink and the cell phone in your pocket all came from someone’s imagination. Art tends to fall into one of those categories that you might go study if you are of means – it seems like a nice idea, but for most of us, it’s simply not very practical. I mean, we’ve all heard the glowing reviews:
- The arts improve academic achievement –enhancing test scores, attitudes, social skills, critical and creative thinking.
- People who experience sustained involvement in the arts are overwhelmingly more likely as adults to found successful companies, publish important articles, and patent new inventions.
- Arts participation – in school or in the workplace – strengthens creativity, it’s the fuel that drives innovation.
- U.S. employers rate creativity and innovation among the top skills that they look for, which will only increase in importance in the coming years, ranking it among the top challenges facing CEOs.
- Art makes you smarter.
Playing at “Wild Edges” EP Release Concert, Sept 2016
If that is the case, why, does it seem, as a culture we are so determined to rule it out as a pursuit? I meet adults every week, who practically worship my creative skills. I tell them (and I completely believe this is true) that they are fully capable of doing what I am doing. Usually, and sadly, they tell me (almost) without fail –”Oh, I’m not creative.”
Sometimes I want to shake them and tell them, “YES YOU ARE!!!”
EVERYONE IS CREATIVE. EVERYONE IS AN ARTIST! Art is something intrinsic to the human experience. We’ve all built a fort, or made up a play and then cajoled our familial victims into participating. We’ve all made a snow-man, a poorly shaped play-doh animal, or a stick drawing of our family. I would even suggest that making something out of nothing is our most common shared human experience aside from the most rudimentary functions of human existence. It’s almost as if we are born artists, and then slowly convince ourselves to give it up.
We start comparing ourselves to others. We become self-aware. We begin to see others as “better” at certain creative efforts, and so we unwittingly cede them, especially when we begin to hear the voices that tell us that other things are more important. We forget far too quickly that the reason we started to create in the first place was we were discovering what it was to be alive, and that we had to tell everyone else what we had seen – IT WAS FANTASTIC! It wasn’t because we were trying to be more creative, or execute more perfectly – we were simply trying to share the joy of being alive!
Here is where we find the crux of it all.
To create is to share your experience. Sharing your experience allows others to show empathy.
Two of the finest things any human being can ever aspire to. To give. To care. So if you can still find that place inside of you that can dream, dream again. If you can use a pencil, or a crayon, or an iPad, or a lathe to create something, and then give it to someone else – if you can create order where there is chaos, do it! Yes, it might be hard. Yes, some people aren’t going to get it. Remember Icharus? That crazy fool dreamed a dream of flying. And he tried, and he failed! But what everyone forgets, is that thousands of years before the Wright Brothers got their glorified kite off the ground at Kitty Hawk…