Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
This Picasso quote, written by photographer and high school teacher Mary Cheung, was one of many penetrating lines of chalk that adorned the three 4′ x 9′ blackboards at the Art is Power Blackboard Event on Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at Kaleid Gallery in San Jose, California.
Inscribed on the blackboards were questions concerning the impacts of the Arts on everything from personal health and community to education and economics. We transformed spectators into participants by distributing chalk, sitting back, and watching the dust rise. Transcending age, race, and socioeconomic status, participants simultaneously became the Artists and the Art. Primary school principal Roberta Ortega posited that the Arts create a strong personal interest for school children, and it is that eagerness that functions as a catalyst for success.
Dancer Khalilah Ramirez wrote “Without [Art] we all die.” She explained that when a person loses their creative and intuitive senses, a part of their spirit dies, and that loss is manifested on a cellular level, resulting in a physically less healthy person. Located parallel to her inscription, literally and figuratively, was the Einstein quote, “Without imagination knowledge is worthless.” When asked what that meant to him, former engineer Ian Moore explained that we cannot solve problems or innovate unless we have the capacity to push the boundaries of possibility and imagine what can be.
In addition to these more intellectual messages, lighthearted comments were also a welcome addition to the blackboards. An anonymous contributor wrote “I heart waffles,” and drew a smiling robot jumping into the air. Reassuring, but not surprising, was the realization that many of these remarks are corroborated by robust findings by teachers, psychologists, and other professionals in the fields of physics, Art, and education. In the article “Arts education in innovation-driven societies” (Education Today, 2014), Vincent-Lancrin and Winner explain:
Artists are role models for innovation in our societies, along with scientists and entrepreneurs, and thus it is not surprising that many see arts education as a means of developing skills critical for innovation.
This citation along with the insights of the night’s participants suggest that the general population not only crave Art, but intuitively need it. The mission of Art is Power is to expose this truth to inspire art centered communities, organizations, and institutions.
The Blackboard Project was a success, and I would like to express my gratitude for the participants, the Art is Power team, and the volunteers who opened the avenues for dialogue. I want to recognize our Budget Director Jaime Sylva, Project Manager Lien Do, and our Development Producer Roberto Mena for taking the time out of their busy lives to ensure the success of the Engage Educate Project. I would also like to thank Josh Hires, Lawrence Berment, and Roberto Mena for their video and photography contributions. The night’s hospitality volunteers, who have a strong knack for making people feel comfortable enough to share their perspectives, were Luis Alvarez and Jimmy Vo. We had fun, connected with new people, and are now equipped with an expanded lexicon to articulate what we all instinctively know: Art is powerful and it is humanity’s preeminent method to engage, educate, and empower.