Ewing Arts Awards 2015 Arts Alive! Speech

Arts Alive! and the Keene Sentinel are collecting nominations for the 2016 Ewing Arts Awards.

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These awards celebrate excellence in the arts. From expression to skill to community participation to youth empowerment there are many ways artists and arts organizations excel in our region. In celebration, we thought we'd share a link to 2015's winners and the speech we gave at the awards ceremony!

Videos of 2015 winners

The 2015 Ewing Arts Awards artist stories

Ewing Arts Awards 2015 Speech

 

by Jessica Gelter

Thank you Terry, it’s been a pleasure working with you, the Sentinel, and the arts community to make this event a reality. We are saturated with art here. This is a special place. And I want to acknowledge the Hoffman and Putnam foundations who made Arts Alive’s sponsorship of this event possible by supporting Arts and Culture across this region. 

Those magical stops for coffee can really bring up some interesting conversations.

Yesterday I was having coffee with my friend. I'm an artist, he's an artist, and we are very opinionated, so we were talking kind of heatedly. He said an artist makes art to transfigure an experience he or she has, to understand oneself better, to transcend many realities in the process of making, to connect with that something else that guides your hand. I said art is a means to communicate and share the human experience. We gift our art to our audiences, and therefore the making is not an individual endeavor, but it is a dialogue with all of humanity. I called his idea isolating and a practice in self-satisfaction. He called my idea pandering, and told me a real artist could make work alone or in company. It was all friendly banter, but where am I going with this?

We make art for different reasons. It has the power to change us as makers, and change us as audiences. Art can open our eyes and connect us with each other. It can inspire us with its beauty, it can build empathy, it can teach us that the world is so much bigger than what we alone can see or experience, and it can help us understand ourselves in a transcendent way. 

Beauty. Empathy. Openness to change. Doesn’t that make the world a better place? 

In 1963, recognizing the important role arts could play in American society, JFK gave a speech celebrating the recently deceased poet, Robert Frost. In it he put forth a vision for our country. He said:

“I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength, but for its civilization as well.”

Two years later the National Endowment for the Arts was created, under Lyndon Johnson. 

Local and Federal funding has helped communities bring talented artists in on tours, and create organizations, like the Colonial here in Keene, that are hubs for downtowns. That funding has helped build programming and activities that engage community members, students, folks in care facilities. So much more.

Culture. Transformation. Building our civilization.

We’ve done well over the decades, recognizing the importance of the arts, but since the late 90’s there have been some dramatic cuts in government investments in the arts. Individuals, businesses, foundations have had to fill that gap in a more significant way than ever before. Particularly recently. Did you know that in 2008, the New Hampshire state government gave the State Council on the Arts over $800,000 in funding – funding that the Council used to match federal dollars, and invest across our state, building arts education and arts in healthcare programs, connecting communities, studying economic impact, and more. 2014’s budget gave just about $370,000. And we’re still looking at cuts.
 
But arts. Artists. We are a resourceful bunch. I’ve seen an artist transform sticks into a sculpture, scraps into a collage, grass into a toy. A wall into a beautiful community centerpiece. A dirt lot into an interactive zen sand garden.

Shaun Donovan, who was the head of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, said in 2010: “The arts are a natural component to creating more livable, walkable, environmentally sustainable communities. They can play a key role as a partner that is able to enhance the unique characteristics of communities and increase our economic competitiveness through supporting creativity and innovation.” 

Exceptional leaders and world-changers - Nobel Prize winners, National Academy of Science members, Royal Society members - are much more likely than the average person, to have artistic hobbies – music, painting, writing.

Empathy. Transformation. Culture. Civilization. Perhaps arts also inspire creativity, innovation? Perhaps we will need the arts even more, as world markets become competitive and the fast pace of technological developments requires new ideas and solutions. 

Art is important for many reasons. We make art for many reasons. We support art for many reasons.

Arts Alive’s Mission is to enhance quality of life by advancing arts and culture in the Monadnock Region. 

That is why we’re here tonight. To celebrate those groups and individuals who are making art and engaging our community. To celebrate those artists of whom every person in this region can be proud to call neighbor. This is Monadnock and it inspires those artists that stand alone like the mountain. And this is Monadnock and it inspires a community that looks up together in awe.

So, I want to encourage you all:
Have more coffee. Talk to new people. Make more art. And take it all in.