This year marked my third annual pilgrimage to Washington DC to attend the National Arts Advocacy Day. It's always a great experience, but this year rose to a whole new level due to a plethora of reasons.
First, this year I wasn't the lone representative from our great state. The Arts Alliance's shiny new Operations Manager, Karmen Rossi, took over the Captain's seat and I happily was relegated to a support staff role. Is it wrong for me to say that she is, in a word, awesome??? You may think me biased, since I had a hand in selecting her for the position, but man oh man, did we ever make a great choice. She jumped into the DC world of politics and advocacy with the comfort and verve of a polar bear in the snow. (For the record, there was NO snow.. it was 80 and sunny, and the cherry blossoms were in bloom.)
Karmen made arrangements for appointments with all three of our elected officials and/or their staff beforehand, so not only did we attend the classes that will make us more efficient at educating and communicating with legislators, but we got to sit down with Senators Enzi and Barrasso and Representative Lummis (her staff) to talk about the unique place of the arts in Wyoming.
In addition, we attended the Nancy Hanks Lecture on the Arts at the world renowned Kennedy Center. This year the keynote speaker was none less than cellist YoYo Ma. I was beside myself in the sheer joy of watching him perform, especially given that in the past year I have taken up my life-long dream to learn to play the cello. He was, as expected, magnificent and exquisite.
And yet.....yet... despite my wonder at his gorgeous playing, it is his words that I keep going back to, his words that keep resonating deep within me as I move throughout my day. Yo Yo Ma started by showing a video clip of himself performing at the Center at age seven. In the clip, there was a shot of him meeting Danny K, who was bent down on one knee in order to look directly into Yo Yo Ma's eyes as they shook hands.
Yo Yo Ma was starstruck, and points out that by coming down physically to the seven-year-old's level, Danny K "brought the edge of childhood to the edge of adulthood", and the result was magical, a moment that YoYo Ma never forgot.
That beautiful cellist went on to explore what we could accomplish if we took the edges of our differences and the various spheres of our society and brought them together... what if the arenas of arts, culture, military, society, economics, education were to touch and intersect more often? What if we were aware of our differences and learned how to move toward one another so that our edges met? Oh, the things we could do.
What I really appreciated about his perspective is that he didn't ask us to merge, or blend or eradicate our differences. We can respect them, even celebrate them, but by bringing the edges together, we create an atmosphere where our differences are complementary rather than adversarial. What a great concept.
Here is a call to all artists, arts educators, arts administrators, arts enthusiasts: Look around your worlds, big and small. What other groups are accomplishing missions that could complement yours if your edges were to meet? And how might that look? I want to challenge you a la Yo Yo Ma to go beyond the traditional borders of other arts organizations, too. Look at the functions of really different organizations from yours -- educational, military, community service, at-risk youth, faith-based, the list goes on. There is potential all over our state for amazing partnerships that will have a very real and effective impact on "quality of life" in our communities.
Food for thought.
Have a great week, and thanks for stopping by the blog.