There are many ways to categorize artists: by genre, by popularity, by experience. Let me propose another division: artists you know and artists you don’t.
I think these categories are important. Let me explain why.
There are writers, musicians, and artists whose work has touched me at profound levels. But I’ve never met them. They don’t know me from Adam. They appreciate the fact that I’ve bought their book, album, print…but when it comes down to it, I’m just a statistic to them. There’s very little opportunity for me to invest in them the way they have invested in me through their artistry. I could send them letters (and in some cases I have), but I have little way of knowing whether my encouragement has hit its mark.
On the other hand, there are writers, musicians, and artists who pursue their craft within the sphere of my community or my circle of friends. They are people I know, at some closer level. Their art, too, has spoken into my life. But here’s the difference: In these relationships, I have the opportunity to reciprocate.
There are artists I know whose art encourages me.
There are artists I know who pursue their craft well.
Perhaps I could look for opportunities to support these artists. Support their art. Encourage them as they create pieces that encourage both me and others.
But how? How can we encourage the artists in our lives? How can we support our artists? I’ll talk more about this in my next post, but let me start with this: Artists pour their hearts into their art. Whenever possible, if there is a way to attend/participate in/listen to their art, then do it. Show that you, too, value the work they do.
Attend: I have a friend who advocates for victims of domestic violence. She recently served as a consultant for an imaginative staging of Shakespeare’s Othello which interwove scenes from Othello with modern scenes of domestic violence (The Othello Project, Phase II). I attended the production. Partly because I love theater. Partly because I love my friend, and my attendance would encourage her. I had a little birthday money available to spend, and I used it to buy my ticket–attending the play was a gift to me, but also a gift to my artist friend.
Participate: I met Laramie when she was nine years old, and have watched her grow in various art forms in the years since. Laramie’s currently a student at Visible Music College in Memphis, Tennessee, and the lead vocalist in a band (with four other VMC students) called She Said. Their first album just released (The First Thing), and they’re touring the country all summer. Last week, they were playing at a bar about 45 minutes from where I live. So, I spent the evening at a saloon, catching up with Laramie and getting to know a couple of the others in the band. Their set didn’t begin till after 11:00. I didn’t get home till 1:00 in the morning. But I got to be there. For a few hours, I got to participate in her life as a young musician on tour, learning the ropes, paying her dues. I had the chance to say by my presence: What you are doing is important. I value you, and the work you do. Thank you.
Listen: The church I attend just released a new worship album (To Know You). I bought it. Because I like the music, and I want to be able to hear it more than on weekends. But also because I know some of the people who worked on the album, played in the band, sang the vocals, wrote the lyrics. I value what they do, and I want to spend time listening to their work, letting it sink into my heart and find its mark. And as the opportunities arise, I want to return the favor.
Who are the artists you know? What have you done lately to attend, participate in, or listen to their art? What could you do in the next week?