Updated: Jan 16
"I want to sit under my own vine and fig tree, a moment alone in the shade, at home in this nation we've made." There is a "dream of a common language" in the spirit in all of us that hopes to exist peacefully in a place where we feel valued, safe, and connected to something greater than ourselves. Painfully, in a world of difference there is misunderstanding, the ache of loneliness, and a disorienting anxiety from the struggle for survival. Fear of the unknown can feel like an overwhelming obstacle to bridging divides, but artists have learned that it is in the unknown where anything is possible.
Artists dedicate their selves to their work because they discovered the secret art holds to our human survival of the unknown - it's not done by fighting against it, but by working with it. The secret is it only takes a little chance on sharing what you have to offer when someone asks a question, and respecting the offerings of others when you have one yourself. There's a reason why they call it the Golden Rule, because when artists have nothing, speak different languages, and are hiding in bomb shelters no matter where on Earth, it is the treasure that sustains their connection to each other and their ability to collaborate and overcome on the spot. Even in solitude, the artist instinctively works with the environment their partner in a relationship of give and receive
That same spirit is alive and well in Las Vegas, and it offers the hope that has written our American story. Every July that we wake up in the Mojave is a defiance of the impossible, and the result of countless shared visions put into action. How can we continue to build on the best of this legacy of overcoming together in what may seem like impossible times, and with such a diverse population? How can we develop enough understanding to move forward? Art is the human spirit in all of us struggling for survival that transcends language as it sings out for another's answer, and when it reaches us, we feel ourselves reflexively calling back in comfort.
The arts are for everyone's humanity, and in a democracy everyone's art must be respected as expressions of the "mutual cares, labors, and dangers" that President Washington, as an imperfect man and great leader, and as a President/General and humble citizen, trusted the American people to face. Our right to vote is also our obligation to recognize the value in another's voice. The training the arts offer to build a better life for ourselves, our community, and our country is at our fingertips. Whether as a maker or as an audience, we are all creatives in the collaboration. By making local arts a regular part of our lives we can find ways to better speak the same language as our neighbors, kids and parents, and write the next chapter in a colorful voice that resonates with the proudest moments of our contribution to the American story.
SHOW AND TELL
To commit an act of theatre a performer only needs three things - their self to commit an action that expresses a message, a space, and a witness sharing the space to experience the message. We are each the artist in our own lives and the witness to others. Our shared spaces are our homes, our communities, our country...the world. An independent theatre is an essential component of the public square. It requires dozens of individuals with years of training, and weeks of commitment in prep to create. Local artists who are often strangers at first, come together to do it for you every day.
LEAD AND FOLLOW
Dance is the most ancient storytelling device as it passed on the collective memory before the written word, and when you witness or perform it, you write yourself into it's story. Dancers prove that you can trust someone who agrees to catch you when you take a leap of faith, even after only a couple of minutes of rehearsal. Dancers contribute to the lifeblood of our economy, and they give their whole body to the effort.
GIVE AND TAKE
Music is sound organized in time and the Las Vegas valley is a mecca for people who can pick up and play a set in tune with another's heartbeat without conversation. Musicians display a natural gift for consensus which helps them agree in harmony and take turns center stage. Attend a concert and enter a world of endless variety where the people in the room naturally begin to breathe together.
REFLECT AND REVEAL
The story of film making is an American original, and our self-awareness is deepened by the experience we share through fleeting moments of truth captured in time. Today our true Vegas character is reflected by a community of artists dedicated to telling stories that scratch beneath the commercial surface that has long dominated our image from the outside.
DREAM AND DO
Through out the ages, visual artists have innovated with whatever is in arm's reach to create vessels that capture our lights of inspiration and transform them into something tangible to pass on as gifts that keep on giving. Explore the diverse creations of visual artists in our community and you will find work that reflects and honors your identity in it's own unique way.
CARE AND HEAL
The health benefits of the arts are now recognized by researchers around the world, and arts are even offered as prescriptions. Physical and emotional therapies involving the arts provide recovery and coping skills empowering our minds and bodies to relieve stress and develop resilience. From young children, to Veterans and retirees, there is no limit to the people who can thrive with the help of the arts.
COLLABORATE AND CONNECT
A little risk can go a long way toward success in the company of creatives. Find your way in to the world of local arts where everything can become "bigger on the inside."
EDUCATE AND EMPOWER
The power that art provides is equal to the number of individuals who pass on it's messages, techniques and traditions. You can play a meaningful part in helping the arts to thrive and improve lives in ways that are as simple as sharing the good news with anyone who wants to get more out of their community, their public programming, and their hard-earned money.
INVITE AND SHOW UP
We are what we eat. If we want to nourish our nation's or neighborhood's ability to dream, work, and thrive together we need to #EatMoreArt. Your seat at the table awaits.
Pictured from the top: A Public Fit & Cockroach Theatre Company, the Las Vegas Valley Theatre Awards (Vogue Robinson, poet), Contemporary West Dance Theatre (Bernard Gaddis), Sin City Opera, film maker Shahab Zargari, Visual Artist Gig Depio.
Sarah O'Connell is the Executive Director of Eat More Art Vegas and the Las Vegas Valley Theatre Awards as well as the Artistic Director of The Asylum Theatre in Las Vegas. sarahoconnelldirector.com