• Bill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday – Art, Beauty, Recovery and Politics During Pandemic Times


“A lot of people think the arts are disposable, what they don't realize is, it's the answer” —Phil Rosenthal


Gratitude Friday – I have been thinking a lot as of late about what holds our society together. It has been a difficult time for all of us. No one of us have ever lived through a time like this before, with political, economic strife and a pandemic that is taking lives, withering away our connections and adding to a pervasive dysphoria that sits over us all like a heavy blanket.


As a person in recovery, I cannot entertain much time spent dwelling on what ails us as it ends up being a dangerous place for me. I have written about that in a prior gratitude Friday post HERE. Last night, Julie and I were watching a show with Phil Rosenthal on different cultures and their food and Phil said the quote at the top of this post. It got me to thinking about how art and creativity sustains us.


I am quite literally surrounded by art and creativity from the moment I open my eyes in the morning as Julie Miller’s work (whose art piece is the picture above) is all around our home. This art lamp title “This Fading Half Light” is a favorite piece and one she conjured out of her head and turned into these lamps she sold through a gallery in Pasadena the Gold Bug. Her artwork sits in a number of homes of people in the movie and entertainment industry. If you are interested in her work, it can be found at HaggisVitae Studios. This is the art of our home and a deep source of rejuvenation and inspiration for me.


I have had to dig a little deeper in my toolbox to get myself though this dark year. Reflecting back on it, art and creation is a central theme of how I am working to keep myself well. Like most of us, some days are better than others. Of the tools I have found, writing is one of my forms of creativity, finding it within me and working on my writing skills has been a sustaining and safe place for me. The other is photography. It is hard for me to stay in a dark place when looking to capture a moment of beauty in the world around me. Make no mistake, such moments surround us every day, even on the really really difficult ones.


Thinking back over three and a half decades of recovery, art, theatre, music, food and creation play such a vital role in my life. Recovery has given me the gift and capacity to experience the very best of who and what we are and what binds us all together.


A few years back, Julie and I were visiting friends, my childhood friend Dave and his wife and author Barbara Stewart Kopecek in Delhi New York. One of the things that they showed us was art work commissioned by the Federal government during the depression era. It was part of the New Deal through the Federal Art Project (FAP) of 1935. The piece, the Down Rent War Around 1835 depicted a chapter in history in which tenants revolted against land owners as the rent of the land and their access to means of sustaining themselves was being used as a means of social control. It is an interesting story that can be found HERE. Art is often political as this piece in the Delhi Post office, it was also I am sure a message to us about what happens to a society in which members have nothing left to lose.


If past is prelude, we may well see such struggles play out in our current times as people at the bottom of the economic pile fight for basics like food and a place to lay their heads at the end of the day. Evictions are occurring across America right now and people have no food or shelter as we descend into winter. This would be a good time to think of ways to sustain those among us who have the least. We really are all connected.


One way to do that is to support the arts. I am grateful for art and mindful of the impact of COVID-19 for artists and creators, many of them who are among those struggling to get by and survive. Thinking this morning of the example of the Federal Arts Project and all the art that they contributed to our society as well as the lesson of supporting artists as a means of keeping our society together. May their lesson to us through art be something we consider now as a way to get America to get through these dark days and back on track as we look towards Spring and a new year.


Grateful for the arts and those who create it. As the quote above says, art is not disposable, it is the answer.


What are you grateful for today?

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