Sunday, May 8, 2011

Power of Art

The Thursday, May 5, New York Times Arts section included three stories that, to me, illustrated the power and essential-ness of art.

Headline: Mozart Leaps Perilous Hurdles To Reach an Audience in Gaza
Daniel Barenboim, conductor, “led an orchestra of two dozen elite musicians – volunteers from the Berlin Philharmonic, the Berlin Staatskapelle, the Orchestra of La Scala in Milan, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Paris – into Gaza on Tuesday.” Barenboim was quoted: “This (concert) is meant to demonstrate European solidarity with Gazan civil society.” The concert required careful maneuvering by the United Nations and others and was taken as sign of possible easing of Gaza’s isolation. One Gazan businessman interpreted the concert saying: “it means people still believe in us. You start with music and end up with acceptance.”

[Mr. Barenboim used to conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. On those wondrous occasions when I could attend a concert, I was stunned by the fact that he did not use a written score – it was all in his head!]

Headline: 12 Heads Do the Talking for a Silenced Artist
The artist: Ai Weiwei, now in his second month of detention in China. The 12 heads: the Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads now on display at a fountain in front of New York’s Plaza Hotel. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg cited New York as a city that “fiercely defends the right of all people to express themselves,” and called Ai “one of the most talent, respected and masterful artists of our time.’

[Had I been there, I too would have held a sign: "Free Weiwei"]

Headline: Bargain Plane’s Priceless Heritage
A young California couple, Matthew and Tina Quy, bought a vintage Stearman biplane on eBay in 2005. They restored it, then discovered it was a piece of American history “one of the few surviving planes used to train the Tuskegee Airmen, the pioneering, all-black corps that served in the Army during World War II.” The Quys are going to give the plane to the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture. When the Quys (who are white) discovered the plane’s heritage, they named it Spirit of Tuskegee and have flown it to air shows to teach people about the airmen. “For three years the couple has been raising money through the sale of … T-shirts to pay travel expenses for airmen who join them to speak about their wartime experiences." Those experiences included the racial hatred (and sometimes violence) that pervaded this country in the 1940s.

These three stories demonstrate how art can transcend barriers – political, international, and racial – with beauty and courage. How can we not honor art and art teachers?

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