What’s essential? The Arts are…

February 11, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

From babyhood, we look at colour. It fascinates and amuses us. We really notice movement, shapes, sounds – they make us laugh and reassure us. With any luck, our environment has art in it, with interesting mobiles and toys with tiny music that we hear over and over.

Voices, the voices in our lives – of a woman – maybe our mother, grandmother, someone who cares and feeds us on a regular basis. A man with deeper tones and a different approach, a different role to play in our lives, even if he participates in the feeding, cleaning and play.

All this is absorbed by our fresh, busy, new minds and, before we do much else, we begin to reflect these elements of our lives. Give a crayon to a child who, by six months, might be sitting up and that child will remember those colours to spread them on a paper, a surface – in due course, maybe a wall… oops.

From those earliest days on, whenever we have the tools – crayons, pencils, paper – we recreate our lives – could be even back to our earliest days –drawing stick figures with O’s for heads, still with eyes and mouths smiling or not, as our lives unfold.

There were barely basic tools when there were paintings, sketches: representations of with what we shared our environment on the walls of the caves, wherein we dwelt. The very famous cave paintings in the Lascaux Cave in France, covered in fulsome details of horses and many other animals date back from 17,000 to 30,000 and 40,000 years ago.

They and other very ancient cave paintings in Spain and elsewhere in Europe, along with sculptures in Germany, were considered the birth places of art as we know it, even now.

The style of paintings in Europe stayed consistent for some 25,000 years.

However, caves have been found on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, very numerous caves with red stencils of hands and ochre figures, dating back 35,000 years. 

In South Africa, there have been found some indication the pigment ochre was used about 164,000 years ago. They found shells that had been pierced with small holes as if for jewellery. 

From our very beginnings, as a species, as new born individuals, before we are much else, we are artists or art is an essential part of who we are. 

Yet, when schools cut budgets, the arts are first to go, mindless to the very milk to our natures that it is – the knowledge of it – the instinctive participation in it.

Somehow, economists are ready to cut the arts first out of a budget when it is as important a part of the whole as the rest – and it has a much more ancient claim to us.

Artists provide an essential service – all humanity, of a necessity to its being, involves itself into arts one way or another. 

So, galleries should be open. Art supply stores hold essential supplies and tools for a person’s expansion into being an artist – on any level – not for world fame, but for being in touch with the world. A store selling art work should be open because our connection to that which is handmade is valuable. 

We need stories too, in books and spoken to us, one way or another. Not only movie companies should have permission to film. Smaller enterprises should be allowed to work, to film, to entertain for filling our destiny as story tellers and eager listeners. It is the venue to lighten our way and shine those lights on our own lives.

Here let us say: the protocols must be well guarded but, in so promising, we will benefit from the freedom we need to interact with the arts. From an altruistic to the most fundamental matter of economics, keep the art businesses in the loops, open the doors, save them by allowing them to welcome the customers who need them.

As authorities play paddy-fingers with our lives and livelihoods and wonder what on earth to do next, they make a constant stream of mistakes. Open, close, go to school, stay home, so many people choking on frustration. We go to work, worried about our colleagues; we stay at home and long for company.

What constitutes essential? Selling food keeps the doors open. Maybe, all those so-called non-essential shop owners should dash to Costco and buy cases of tins of beans – get some beer! – and put them up on their shelves and anyone could open! Then, we can buy nice clothing or drawing pens or used books or …

Why is anything non-essential when Walmart is open? We are at much more risk in a large store than in the easily controlled confines of a small shop we love.

What is this freakish trend toward allowing box stores to welcome customers but shutting down the little places with no tins of beans?


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