I am not an artist.
Whatever gene my children inherited that allows them to draw, sing, write poetry or play music came from somewhere else on the family tree. Yet I learned early on everyone can enjoy art, even those of us with limited natural talent.
I grew up in Memphis, Tenn., where we claim blues and country music first blended into rock and roll. Listening to all kinds of music is in my blood.
I remember my father spending hours at the piano picking out his favorite hymns and singing along. Daddy had no musical training, but he taught himself enough so he could play the melody with one hand.
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No one in my family could really draw, but one of our favorite vacation activities was to find smooth rocks and paint them. On one trip, it rained for days, but we still had fun staying indoors and painting scenes of the places we’d visited before the storm.
As a child, I tried my hand at drama and writing fiction. The results were decidedly mixed, but even now, reading and watching theater are some of my favorite pastimes. I love a good novel, a soulful song, a provocative painting or a rousing musical because each has the power to touch a deep place, to move me or to make me laugh.
Experiencing a creative work by myself is often wonderful, but I prefer to enjoy art in the company of others.
That’s why live theater and concerts are so much more exhilarating to me than listening to a recording or watching TV.
All three of my children grew up in State College and each has tried art in one form or another. Like most parents, I’ve enjoyed every choir concert, piano recital, drama production and artistic endeavor my children attempted. Being able to laugh and applaud with friends, family or even strangers makes the experience larger, happier and more memorable for everyone involved.
So it’s no surprise my favorite time of year here in State College is arts festival week. What I like about it is that for four and a half days, more than 100,000 neighbors and visitors experience art as a community. There are music, theater and dance performances and more than 300 artists showing their work. It’s like hundreds of gallery openings all at the same time and place.
I love that this event makes art accessible to everyone. You don’t have to buy anything. And it’s completely acceptable to treat yourself to an ice cream cone while you shop.
I believe art is for everyone. It’s for those who create and for those who find joy in creative work. It’s for my dad, picking out hymns on the piano. It’s for our children, performing a school play. And it’s for all the Pennsylvanians who look forward to the arts festival every year, as I do.
Art is for everyone, but I believe the real fun is experiencing art together.