Why are the arts important in the scheme of things? Our world is upside down. We’re bombarded by images of murder, war, earthquakes, and terrorism on a daily basis. The soul of our nation is wounded. Many are simply trying to figure out how to put food on the table. It seems that, under these circumstances, the arts are simply a frivolous extravagance and really unnecessary.
As a creative, I’m well aware of this kind of thinking, and I understand how reasonable it sounds. But I also understand just how damaging it can be.
It was during her darkest hour that my friend Dianne was drawn to an art museum. Sitting for hours, staring at various paintings, she took refuge in the art-filled space. As she sat there, her eyes were drawn to one particular painting. In a moment it was as if the heavens opened, and God Himself revealed the intricacy of His plan through the lines, colors, shapes, and shades of light upon the canvas. This defining moment gave her power to face the future and to trust the God of All Creation through her tragedy . . . the senseless murder of her son.
“Beauty generates physical and mental health. It heals our wounds and gives us a sense of well being. It responds to the pain of the soul and redeems it.” ~ from Beauty and the Soul
Kim was born in Korea. Just a few hours old, he was abandoned by his mother and left in a trash can. Kim was discovered a few days later and taken to a nearby orphanage. He was eventually adopted by an American family and grew up in the northern plains. His childhood was difficult . . . but an old, out-of-tune piano became his friend. The piano was moved into his bedroom. The room was so small he could lie in bed and reach up and touch the keys of the piano. Kim says that the treble keys sounded like angels singing above his head. He found comfort and a sense that God was near through the beautiful sounds from this old piano.
“The more we recognize beauty around us, the more we feel at home in our own skin and happy to be alive.”
Not all of the arts are beautiful or divinely inspired. But for this article, I’m focusing on art that embodies noble qualities.
Brain Scans Reveal the Power of Art
Scientific studies are now confirming what we’ve known all along. Professor Zeki at University College London conducted the art experiment. He wanted to see what happens in the brain when one looks at beautiful paintings. Just how powerful is the effect on the brain? He found that blood flow increased greatly when participants viewed a beautiful painting, just as it increases when you look at somebody you love. This tells us that art induces a “feel good” sensation directly to the brain.
Beautiful images transform our thinking. They call us to higher thinking and create a longing for truth. Without beauty, we are souls without hope.
Scripture exhorts us: “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
“Indeed, an essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy ‘shock.’ It draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum. It even makes him suffer, piercing him like a dart, but in so doing it, ‘reawakens’ him, opening afresh the eyes of his heart and mind, giving him wings, carrying him aloft.” ~ Popes Address to Artists
Spaces that are void of art and symbol leave us longing. Each of us need symbols that embody our beliefs. They give us focus, and I’ve heard it said that a people who lose their symbols also lose their heart. I have a bit of an understanding of this. While living in Germany we attended a language school. In class, our teacher showed images and invited us to comment. The image that caused the class to erupt in conversation was of the American flag. Of course, the Americans in the class spontaneously stood up, put their hands over their hearts, and began to belt out the National Anthem . . . with great patriotic gusto!
There were other nations represented in this class who were taken back by our enthusiastic response. The teacher began to share about the deep shame associated with Germany’s flag. He told us that, since WWII and the evil deeds of the Nazis, the flag of the German people had become a source of shame . . . not pride.
Symbols are powerful. Not long ago a teacher was removed from her position because she wore a crucifix around her neck to class. No doubt, symbols can represent strong beliefs.
I’ve recently uncovered a personal revelation of the power of art in a new area. The majority of my life has been spent in the arts. My hubby and I co-founded Creative Arts Europe and toured cathedrals with troops of musicians and dancers. My resume includes acting, dancing, modeling, and photography, but the joy of my life has been as a singer/songwriter. This expression would carry me through life and define my journey. Rarely do we think of losing the ability to do the very thing we were created to do. I don’t understand the “whys” or “wherefores.” All I know is that I’ve lost my voice. I can no longer sing and often struggle just to speak. This loss overwhelmed me, and caused me to search for a new voice . . . a new way to express the depths of my heart. A friend suggested art classes and, like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, I soon found myself in the middle of a metamorphosis.
A small group gathered weekly to study with artist Dorsey McHugh. She invited us to play, to let go of any preconceived expectations, to discover the colors we loved, to put our fingers in the paint, and to fall in love with the feeling of simply spreading paint on a canvas.
I’ve been in that class for almost two years now, and each week I discover a little more about myself and about what inspires me. I’ve rediscovered “play” and also discovered that there was a hidden talent for painting. At my first art show, after one year of painting, I sold 30 paintings and received commissions. Who knew?
One can’t help but wonder what each of us could do if we had the opportunity. What talents are hidden, just waiting for us to give them wings?
I’m excited to announce that I’m creating A Renaissance of Creativity, a comprehensive resource that will lead you on a journey of exploring how creativity can help make your life beautiful. It will be available at the beginning of the year.
So in the scheme of things, art has given me hope, new possibilities, and a new heart expression. God has used art as a window to reach out and restore my friends, Dianne and Kim, and bring healing and hope to them. The world is enriched, hearts are healed, and multitudes are inspired to reach higher and to think on whatsoever things are lovely . . . through art. I encourage you to embrace this journey and discover the healing power of art that will help you live more abundantly in this upside down world.