Artistry as Gratitude

By Joni Starr

At this time of year in particular, we pause for the practice of gratitude. We assess our lives through the question, “What am I grateful for?”

My answer often includes creativity, the ability to see possibility in the mist of obscurity. I am grateful for this, however, as I think more on the idea I embrace the notion of artistry as gratitude.

The artistic approach to life encourages us to really see what surrounds us, all of our environment: the whole and the broken parts, the celebrations and the challenges, the beautiful and the ugly, the conflict and the peace. An artist’s role is often to reflect life, as they see it, back to others to consider.  Performer and audience. Creator and observer.

My four-year-old neighbor loves to look for tiny things. His favorite tool is a magnifying glass and he has found countless “treasures” in my yard. After collecting and arranging the items he proudly shares his discoveries with me.

Photographer Ansel Adams loved the outdoors. He captured sweeping natural landscapes that make us feel both large and small. His frontiers in photos and in life reflect both ruggedness and serenity.

My niece makes “TikTok” dance videos to celebrate the success of her friends: getting a new job, trying a new recipe, learning how to use a power tool. These quick moments recognize and validate others in an openly public way.

Dancer and choreographer Kyle Abraham draws from urban landscapes to uncover real events and personal stories. He then employs movement to expresses ideas of communication, adversity, sentiment, and realness.

A friend of mine purchases clothes to reflect and define her feelings. Her daily choices do not rely on the weather outside, but instead on her inner atmosphere. She has a wardrobe of emotion.

Fashion designer Prabal Gurung is influenced by Nepal and India and creates looks with a reverence for color. He says that we are “stronger in color,” meaning the world is a more beautiful place when it is diverse.

My favorite poet, David Whyte writes, “Thankfulness finds its full measure in generosity of presence, both through participation and witness.” This perspective and the aforementioned individuals highlight what I consider to be artistic vision: an awareness of the large and the small, the seen and unseen, the known and unknown. Artistry requires alertness, wakefulness, cognizance, consciousness, and mindfulness. A “generosity of presence.”

Artistry gifts us the quality of awareness, awareness gifts us gratitude and this gratitude supports us as we walk in our daily path. Artistry as gratitude.

Joni Starr is an arts integration specialist, theatre educator, and teaching artist. She served as a Founding Contributor in Theatre for the MAEIA project.

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