When economies shift and budgets are tight, the arts are generally the first thing to go.  My dominant left brain and my political sensibilities are always inclined to be supportive. 

I’ve never considered myself an advocate of the arts….until now.  

When nothing in my life felt clear or easy, the arts filled me with strength.   My brain’s default setting is to solve.  I can research, study, plan, and theorize endlessly, but after a while I realized that none of these things could help with my pain.  The more I treated life like a puzzle, the more it became like one. 

On the advice of someone wiser than myself, I starting taking a different approach.  I went to fun cultural events, enjoyed the symphony, and took in some art.   To my surprise, it did not feel like reckless escapism:  it actually felt like I was diving deeper into reality. 

The best and most life-giving moments were in my car with the music cranked.  Mike Edel.  The Rankin Family.  Justin Bieber.  Luke Bryant.  Eminem.  Keith Urban.  I made no effort to be cool or develop discerning tastes; I just liked whatever spoke to me.  There was anger and sadness, but there was also energy, fun, nostalgia, joy, and narrative.  Music covered the breadth of my experiences.    

The arts remind me that I am in good company.  Self-pity is a real temptation when you are going through difficult times.  The arts have a way of connecting us and helping us empathize more deeply.  They bring to life the experiences of other people.  Our personal experiences can be very isolating, but they are rarely very unique. 

Whenever I travel, I am struck by the universality of art and humanity’s enduring need to make things that are beautiful.  There are statues and monuments, paintings, dishes, currency, and buildings of faith and politics.  There is music and theatre.  What’s the point?  I think that the desire to express and create touches on the core of what it means to be human.  We are artists by nature because we are born to connect with each other. 

And so I will advocate for the arts, because the arts advocate for us.

By Jeana Schuurman