Public radio and television often ask for contributions to keep their stations and channels alive. We’re asked what our lives would be like without the arts—I began to consider all the ways fine art has influenced my career as a writer.
After washing my face, brushing my teeth and throwing on my “work” clothes, the first thing I do in the morning—even before brewing coffee—is adjust the dial on our radio to our listener funded classical music station. Often a favorite composer’s work is played encouraging a quick sit-down at the computer and prompting page after page from a now psyched up author. Weekends—a change of pace—I listen to Jonathan Schwartz as he plays and talks about musical comedy and jazz greats. He plays Sinatra and Clooney, the fabulous Ella Fitzgerald and the singer’s singer Mabel Mercer and I inhale the music and lyrics of Rogers and Hart, Kern and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim—oh what lyrics, oh what words—the stories that are told in verse and refrain. What would I do without those stations?
Then there are our museums where I wander through gallery after gallery and lose myself in another land, another century, and another time. I stop and study sculptures of character and nuance—creations that evolve from marble, clay and metal when touched by the shaping hands of masters. Admire and sometimes fall in love with the perfect hero—a hero that I can only dream and write about. Self-interpret paintings that cover every taste from Renaissance to folk to modern to impressionist and the art of early Greeks, Romans, Africans, Asians and perhaps pre-historic ancestors whose DNA I may carry today. When I contemplate a photograph—I receive an impression of time, place, fashions, faces and bodies—the where, when, why, and who that germinate an idea or answer a question that triggers a story or article.
Books mean the most to me. Words make me dream with their brushstrokes of light and darkness, add a glimmer of hope to a sorry period in life, encourage a smile or gales of laughter, launch a voyage into the unknown. Words may lull me to sleep or make me think, imagine and believe. Books open my mind to the possible and—sometimes what I thought impossible becomes viable. Writers make use of a palette of words—words with colors vibrant and tender, charged with passion—words that open a door to another universe.
What do the arts mean to you?