What does it mean to be an artist? Stripped of its mystery and its poetry, the word still inspires awe. There is no one thing that defines what an artist is or what an artist creates. The word remains a shell, a void, emptied so that the world may burn and shine through. An artist is a catalyst, the space carved out and reserved for possibility. With fire and grit, with science and chaos, lines and language, something known becomes unknown, and within that mystery, creation flourishes.
My father is an artist – the architect. I remember sitting for days curled beneath his drawing board. I traveled with him to vacant lots and corn fields, mounds of dirt and rotting brick. I saw nothing at these sites. He, however, saw walls, rooms, a swing set, a library – he saw possibility. He documented that possibility on napkins and scraps he kept buried in his pockets. Then, late nights, fueled by Pepsi cans, pots of black coffee, and packs of cigarettes, followed. He set out translating a home, its future memories, to lines and numbers, geometric shapes and scales.
When he was done, he had created something, but he was not yet an artist – just a man with lines.
Creation happened only after he had relinquished his rights to those lines and sketches. Only after he handed them over to a contractor would those lines be read and used to imagine and create something.
My father was still not an artist. Only months, years later, when the structure was complete, when he could reach out and touch it, when he took off his shoes and tripped over the toys of a young boy’s new playroom, was the process complete.
What does it mean to be an artist? Perhaps a better question would be: what does it mean to be human? To recognize and celebrate our humanity, our passions, our possibility – to see the world, strange and new, to find hope, to ask why, to see how, to constantly be moving forward?
Artists work through many mediums: movement, music, words, sound, food, wood, steel – the mediums are endless and the process is universal.
We create and inspire. We make the familiar strange and wondrous. We ask questions and reveal possibility. We empower those around us to ask why, to imagine how. We give, we hope, and most importantly, we dream.
Artists create; we remember. And the cycle continues.