Balance, inspiration - gifts from the arts

Mar 30, 2017 Betty Starks Case

No two humans are exactly alike, we're told, although there are similarities.

The same is said to be true of snowflakes, but I doubt many have compared them.

Because our maker apparently desires variety, some people are born with athletic talents, some musically gifted, others lean more toward teaching, governing, service to others, the arts, the spiritual, business, and many other interests that make our world functional and tolerable.

The variety appears to make it difficult for lawmakers to determine how tax money should be spent.

Because President Trump's proposed budget suggests elimination of much of the federal funding for the arts, I tend to get down to the basics, which is somewhere I've been before.

As an 8-year-old, I wrote my first poem, letters to aunts and uncles, and drew endless pictures of children and animals, gently easing the fly leaves from my schoolteacher mother's college textbooks for the process. They were perfect material. She pretended never to notice. Clearly, my need to learn about words and art was built in.

Today, I believe parents should note a child's strongest natural interest and encourage it. Both child and parent can live happier lives.

I disagree with Mr. Trump's apparent view that work must result in piles of money and the arts ignored as inconsequential where funding is concerned.

I wonder if he realizes his wife's modeling career, the clothing and makeup, the model's walk, his daughter's jewelry and clothing creations are born of artistic endeavor? That his own profession and the source of his wealth in buildings and golf courses is a creative activity, spawned by artistic urgings of architecture itself?

The famous actress-musician-author Julie Andrews, so well-quoted in publisher Steve Peck's editorial last Sunday, understood the many-sided value of the arts and the ways they affect almost every aspect of living.

Her extensive involvement with the arts may bring a clearer view than that of Mr. Trump.

As for me, I think of the old-time movies, and yes, early Wyoming, where many people lived in homes sadly short of amenities or convenience.

Still, pioneer women realized the spirit-lifting value of a few pictures on the wall, a hand-crocheted doily or two, and flowers on the table, if only wild sunflowers or dandelions.

Men treasured old fiddles, guitars and saddles, each a product of someone's art. And sometimes, in the worst of times, the fiddles sang and everyone danced.

A few years ago, I dedicated extensive time and effort to competition for the Governor's Arts Award for Wyoming Writers, Inc.

The award was for an organization of more than 200 writers, not for me. Although literature is a branch of the arts, it seemed the coveted award had been lingering in the visual and performing branches. Because I'd been serving on the state board of the literary branch for four years, the oversight seemed obvious to me.

A comprehensive and compelling nomination was required to compete and qualify for the Governor's Arts Award.

Our members came through with proof that writers had given presentations and classes in schools both on and off the Indian Reservation, had judged writing and spelling contests and offered helpful critiques to students.

Community service reports confirmed historical, literary and cultural presentations to libraries, museums, heritage and senior centers.

We won. Two hundred plus writers shared the effort and the honor.

Today, a highly respected annual writers conference hosted by volunteer groups of writers throughout the state offers reasonable fees and scholarships to attend the workshop. Seminars offer critiques and instruction by a New York editor, a poet and authors of various genres. Writing competitions reward and publicize excellence in the literary arts. Panelists are drawn from various ethnic groups for their enriching cultural diversity.

Publication is the writers' gallery and stage. But all branches of the arts converge when visual and performing artists help define their work. Photographers and artists illustrate the writers' verbal creations. Performing artists give life to the writers' words. And vice versa.

I believe this experience clarifies the everyday effect of the arts on our lives, how they lend balance, inspiration, and often the determination, in tough times, to just "break out the fiddles and dance."