How do the arts respond to violence?

Yesterday was a horrible day in Boston.  If you haven’t heard yet, two explosions rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Three are dead, more than 130 injured, several critically.  I am having a hard time working today.  It is difficult to focus on marketing upcoming events, or developing new programs.  I want to cry.  I want to scream.  I want to hide.  It is difficult for me to hear normal conversations in the hallway, including laughter.  I am sure as a child I was occasionally called the sensitive type.  Today, I feel it.

3bammessagebostonIn the last 24 hours I have seen (and shared) a number of posts and emails about how artists respond.  Patton Oswalt wrote something that included “So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will”. A number of folks also  posted the following quote from Leonard Bernstein “This will be our reply to violence: To make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”  And Last night NYC Light Brigade and The Illuminator  lit up the side of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Peter Jay Sharp building, displaying messages of support for Boston. The messages projected read: “Peace and Love,” “It shouldn’t take a tragedy for us to come together,” “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that” (a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote), and NY ♥ B (in the Red Sox font).  These are wonderful expressions of support and encouragement for a city and her people who are struggling. But I can’t help wondering what else we can do. I know that the arts, a field to which I have devoted my life, have the power of transformation, and I still don’t know what to do.  The arts, like no other activity have the power to build community, to break down barriers, to help us understand one another, and yes to help us heal.  I know this with absolute certainty.  I have seen it.  And yet, today I am stunned into inaction, because I don’t want to trivialize and because, I think, deep down, I still wonder if we have a place in a tragedy like this.  I want to mobilize, to help, to heal.  I think most of all, I want to participate, but I am afraid.  For today, I am not feeling very creative or artsy, I am just… feeling.

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5 Responses

  1. Thank you for this timely and authentic piece of writing, Ty. Having lived in Boston, I am stunned to hear the news, too. This evening, a group of students are gathering at Vanderbilt University to discuss the linkages between art and service. I’d like to share your post with them as we begin our conversation about transformation and healing.

  2. Ty: this blog post was a beautiful piece of art. You were not stunned into inaction. Thank you for expressing yourself so openly.

  3. Work in the mundane; washing the floor, going through files, dusting pictures. In that work, a simple process of action may reveal a memory, a moment of joy, or delight or even hope. I find that when I’m stuck – keeping my hands busy helps to calm the soul.

    Your writing from the heart is a part of that process – raw, honest and transparent. It is work that offers a feeling that many share. It in itself is beautiful.

  4. Hello, Ty. Our students were moved by your writing and by learning about the NYC Light Brigade. We discussed how the arts provide us with a toolbox for getting a message across, and how various art forms can be wielded like a powerful new language. And uniquely, the arts touch both our hearts and our intellects. From our discussion, we hope to develop a series of art and service workshops. Thank you, again, for sharing your thoughts (intellect) and feelings (heart) with us.

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