NASAA Notes: October 2020


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Pam Breaux

October issue
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October 6, 2020

Art in Our Daily Lives

Famous poet, essayist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau once said, “The greatest art is to shape the quality of the day.” As our country continues to battle the trials and tribulations of COVID-19, racial unrest, economic uncertainty and natural disasters, feeling overwhelmed has become fairly typical. I was in a conversation with a NASAA team member recently, and we talked about the need for ongoing personal recovery during these challenging times. We committed to finding a three-hour time block each week to quietly recover. I have yet to make good on that promise! The conversation also reminded me that it’s important to take one day at a time, to take a moment each day and focus on something that clears the mind or provides peace, joy or relaxation. This quiet, personal time can provide clarity and, as Mr. Thoreau said, shape the quality of our day.

Of the many threads interwoven to create the community fabric that is our nation, the arts tell the story of history, places, people, culture and heritage. For many, the arts provide a space to unwind, to lose ourselves in the colors of a painting, the melody of a song, or the dialogue of a play. While we were not able to spend the summer basking in outdoor performances, sidewalk exhibits and museum galleries, we can now embrace autumn as an opportunity to reshape the quality of our day and how we enjoy the arts. As a much-needed salve, I’m now taking time for a moment of art each day. With an abundance of arts experiences available virtually, there’s every opportunity to take a moment out of the daily grind and fill it with art. Here a few examples:

  • Launched last month, the Virtual Online Museum of Art transports visitors into a beautiful art space from the comfort of home. In the world’s first virtual museum, visitors can explore two galleries featuring works by artists like Henri Matisse, Édouard Manet, Li Wei and Jasper Johns.
  • In addition to the online museum, you might pay a visit to the Smithsonian’s Museum of African American Culture and History to experience the virtual Cultural Expressions gallery; it’s a circular, experiential introduction to African American and African diaspora culture.

To address the needs of communities during the pandemic, state arts agencies and their partners have supported virtual programing as a form of community outreach. Just a sampling:

  • This summer, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture introduced Cultura Virtual, an opportunity for communities to virtually participate (via Facebook) in presentations and workshops; it included more than 30 experiences in dance, music, literature and visual art.
  • The Maine Arts Commission, in cooperation with the Ashley Bryan Center, organized a stunning virtual exhibit of Ashley Bryan’s work, which is also currently featured at the Maine State House.
  • Fueled with Arts in Society funding from Colorado Creative Industries, Motus Theater is continuing the JustUs monologues series, with stories from the front lines of the criminal justice system.

State arts agencies demonstrate creativity and innovation in providing programs and services, with a continued focus on ensuring that every community in America receives the cultural, civic, economic and educational benefits of the arts. We at NASAA are inspired by the plethora of virtual programing supported by your agencies. The work you support provides Americans a wide variety of opportunities to experience art daily, even during a pandemic.

As I think about the benefits of art in daily life, I’m also drawn to the life of late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, an iconic champion for justice who succumbed to pancreatic cancer last month. Widely known as a supporter for gender equality and human rights, she was also a longtime supporter of the performing arts. Justice Ginsberg was often seen at performances in the Washington, D.C., area; it was not unusual to see her at Arena Stage, Signature Theatre and Shakespeare Theatre Company. Not only a member of the audience, Justice Ginsberg was cast as the Duchess of Krakenthorp in the Washington National Opera’s The Daughter of the Regiment in 2016. In 2009, she appeared on stage along with Justice Antonin Scalia as a supernumerary during the Washington National Opera’s performance of Ariadne auf Naxos. A fan of opera from age 11, Justice Ginsberg said, “Most of the time, even when I go to sleep, I’m thinking about legal problems, but when I go to the opera, I’m just lost in it.”

I, too, often find myself lost in the arts, and I appreciate those moments deeply. Whether I’m walking the halls of a museum gallery (soon and socially distanced!) or taking a virtual visit to the online exhibitions at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, I’m grateful for the opportunity to lose myself in an art experience. You might consider taking a moment to reshape the quality of your day and lose yourself in the inspiring quotes and profound portraiture of Justice Ginsberg captured in the recent Washington Post article, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in Art and Words.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA




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