"Art Shakes the Tree, the Monkeys Fall Out"

I have always considered myself an artist and have stuck up for freedom of expression. Especially my own! My fourth-grade teacher sent me to the principal’s office for mulishly refusing to draw a horse’s ears the way she directed.

Like many of our contributors, I work in more than one artistic realm: I’m a writer, watercolor painter, mosaic sculptor and garden designer. In my view, being an artist has more to do with how one relates to the world than it does with using a particular medium or set of tools.

Recently, when I met Olivia Pevec, a writer who is new to this magazine, I was happily surprised to recognize her as a singer/songwriter for the local musical group “Let Them Roar.” No one-trick pony, she’s also a musician, sculptor and writer!

Artistic director Lon Winston of the Thunder River Theatre Company, one of the many creative spirits profiled in this issue, is an actor, set designer and director. That enables him to create a total experience, awakening our humanity through word, gesture, intonation, staging and music. His holistic vision becomes our theatrical experience.

Too often, artists are pushed to choose between creative disciplines. While working in ad agencies, I was often told “you can’t be both a writer and a graphic designer.” I resisted, ultimately becoming a creative director, someone responsible for the unity of words and images. It’s similar to what I do in assembling this magazine.

Still, the arts can be disheartening. As unsold canvasses collect in my closet, I sometimes think, “There’s no market for creative work!” There’s good reason that the phrase “starving artist” remains in our vocabulary and that arts so often get cut from what’s taught in schools. Art is often seen as elective, unnecessary.

Then again, I think the arts are absolutely essential. In a 2014 TED talk called “Why art is important,” Katerina Gregos, former artistic director of Art Brussels, said that “Art shakes the tree and all the monkeys fall out.” Gregos maintains that art is key to our cultural health, that it says to us, “I make this world, I don’t simply inherit it.”

Creative works give the artist a voice. In a world where too many people commit suicide saying, in effect, “my life has no meaning,” art gives us a way to make sense of senseless events, to make meaning of our lives.

Because of that, the arts are as necessary as food and water, shelter and companionship.

I offer this issue as a toast to our local artists. May we continue to feed their bodies as they feed our souls, and for years to come.