Here is the text from my speech today at the annual Arts Council of the Conejo Valley board installation…
The Arts – That is what we are a council of. The Arts Council of the Conejo Valley. We are “The VOICE of the Arts”. All forms of “the arts”. The Arts has a very important place in developing, defining and supporting culture — OUR culture. The cultural values each of us hold may be slightly or extremely different from each other, but they are profoundly important to each of us. Each of our stories are unique. We each see things differently… we EXPERIENCE things differently — and that is OK.
An artist friend, Johanna Spinks, recently posted a new painting on her Facebook profile. It’s a wonderfully delicate painting of a young boy, around the age of 4 or 5. He is gazing upwards with a look of AWE in his eyes — his mouth is slightly open. She has titled it “WONDERMENT” and I responded… “Wonderment is right. Makes me wonder myself about what he is wondering about. A puppy? Chocolate cake? a new BB gun? He has bright eyes for sure…” She replied back “Rich, I leave the wondering “decision” up to you…” NICE! — well, I’m still wondering.
So, we all have decisions to make every moment. Decisions about WHAT we see and how to respond to it. Every person that looks at a flower or face … friend or foe … or looks at a painting, or watches a dramatic theater production, listens to a string orchestra, walks around a beautifully sculpted garden or experiences or creates any other form of artwork, makes decisions about their responses.
I have sometimes challenged others to pause for a short moment in their daily grind, and take notice of something that they do not normally see. Perhaps to look at a small “flower” that is among the weeds… Maybe a lone leaf that falls from a winter Aspen tree, maybe the way a mother lovingly holds the hand of her 2 year-old running beside her at the mall. Creativity is to discover what you would not otherwise see.
I remember something that happened to me at the mall a long time ago. I even wrote about it on my personal blog… It was about a day that I received a gift from somewhere beyond me. The gift was a heightened sense of awareness. I was eager to experience it before it faded away — Like an enhanced sense of touch; it seemed to bring everything closer. I sat on a bench and watched a mother walking by holding an infant and could feel the thick love that the child had for her mother. I walked into a kid’s toy store and went through the too-small-for-grown-ups door like I was Alice chasing the rabbit into Wonderland. The simplest of toys brought such amusement to me, it was like being 5 years old again, filled with wonderment. In this short wrinkle of time, the folds of the universe had come closer for me to observe. I departed the toy store and continued my journey of sights and sound that rippled with life unaware.
All around the Conejo Valley, there are these ripples of life that touch every corner. You all are part of what is making these ripples in our community… and sometimes, even waves. We continue being the “Voice of the Arts”, so our emerging leaders – our poets, prophets, painters and performers – have their own “Aha!” moments of wonderment. With our example, leadership and support, they are the change our community and our world needs.