In a lovely blog post on The Unfolding Moment blog entitled “Retrospective: Be Very Afraid. And Then Draw It Anyway,” art therapist blogger moonrabbit describes what is important about “informal arts” or “participatory arts.”
I’d like to add another story from my travels this summer. When I visited the fantastic Northern Lakes Center for the Arts in Amery, WI (pop 2845), Center Director LaMoine MacLaughlin gave me several copies of their publication Soundings, which publishes poems, stories, and essays by the Center’s Writer’s Group. LaMoine opened the latest edition, July 2009, to a poem by Ireme Christianson entitled “Midnight Love” (see page 15 of the pdf link). I read the poem and was very taken with it. He told me that the previous evening I had seen Ms. Christianson and the man she was writing about in her poem rehearsing their production of Romeo and Juliet. Both were elderly, in their 70s or early 80s I believe, and both were widowed. They had found each other very recently, and the poem was about their relationship. The “midnight” of the title referred not to a time of day, but rather a time of life. For me at that moment, Christianson’s poem sprang to life in full color. Words that had previously seemed deepened. I hadn’t talked to either of them the night before, but just having seen them once, my imagination filled in the emotion that obviously was present when the poem was written.
From the viewpoint of “quality,” I suppose a critic of poetry would find “Midnight Love” less than a masterpiece, as would an art critic find moonrabbit’s drawing. But from the viewpoint of authentic experience between artist and observer, I can say that both created a powerful experience for me that many works that have been declared masterpieces have never approached. And surely that counts for something. Sure that is another way to think of quality.