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Washing Away Everyday Dust

Take 5

Recently I was asked to address the Phi Theta Kappa chapter at Co-Lin about the value of the arts. Now, this is something I know a little about. I agreed, but fear set in instantly Now, I’ve spoken to service clubs and groups. My whole life has been in front of an audience (I was a classroom teacher for years after all) and I’ve spoken to PTK twice before. But I worked at Co-Lin then and knew many of the members. They knew what they were going to hear. But this time was different. I knew one young lady, the one who invited me to speak, and for some reason I mildly freaked out.

The day came, I found my room and, after a few pleasantries and a blushing introduction, I launched into my SHAWTALK. In a way, it hardly made sense to me to even have talk about the value of the arts. After all, everyone of us is affected by them. That was probably the basis of my fear. Here's what I told my audience:

Research tells us there are two sides of the brain that dictate a lot of how we act and learn. For right-brained like me, the arts are the key to learning. We’ve all seen the puzzles online that warn only left brain people can solve them. I have found that most times they are right. I work the puzzles and long before I solve them, I’m bored and move on. Some of us can read a manual or instruction sheet like a pro. Not me. I look at the picture of the finished product, and spend twice as much time on the project as I should. Art is a tool for teachers to help learners like me.

Enough science. Let’s look at the economic impact of the arts in Mississippi. Start with your library. Every book was written by an artist. "Between the Lions," documentaries, "Mississippi Outdoors" and, of course, "Sesame Street" are all shows that involve writers, actors, directors and technicians. Museums in Mississippi provide many jobs as well as opportunities for volunteers. Every piece of music to which we listen has an artist, a composer, a producer and an engineer. All considered arts professions. In Mississippi there are over 15,000 people working in the arts. Interior designers, event planners, art teachers, music teachers, photographers. All work in the arts. Web designers and game inventors are hot right now.

Art also records our present for the future generations. Our words, dance steps, visual art and music tell our stories to future generations. “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” Pablo Picasso said. Most importantly, art is about our soul. Not the one that leads to Heaven or Hell. but the one that we walk around on earth -- what we face every day.

Art encourages creative thinking, enhances problem-solving skills, boosts self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment. How many of us pick up a guitar or sit down at the piano, or put “your jams” on, pick up a book or a paint brush at the end of a long day? Good or bad. A lot of us do. Why? Why do we do that? It washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. We may not realize that’s what is going on, but it is.

The role of the arts informed by brain research, their boost to the economy, that they preserve and advance history and culture are all important. But I personally need the arts "to wash away the dust of everyday life from the soul.”

Support the arts, my friends.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Shaw Furlow is a local composer, musician and arts promoter. He produces an internet-based video show -- From the Shadyside -- that spotlights area musical talent and is a consultant to school bands in the region.

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