You know people don’t know who I is
But, I’m with you
I ain’t going to give myself away
And when I come back
I’m going to be here
– Hound Dog Taylor
The days vanish from us like deer bounding into the woods. We all know this, somehow, but we’ve been made more mindful of it now, most of us more than ever.
The Niagara Artists Centre is fifty years-on this 2019-2020 season. When our sixteen founding members got it together in 1969, fifty years had passed since The Great Pandemic of 1918-1920. That’s facts for you, put enough of them together and their changes make patterns, spot the cycles.
There are also things that stay steady. NAC is one of them. Though we’ve presented an eclectic range of art work across disciplines for five decades, there’s always been a constant — most of it wasn’t widely understood in the rational, efficiency-seeking environment that we’ve found ourselves in.
That’s on the artists, we accept full responsibility. Like Hound Dog Taylor says, we don’t give ourselves away. Artists share their ideas to generate thought on what they’ve created, whether it’s an exhibit, a piece of music, some well-chosen words, a film, or a performance. The best artists are really going to put it to you. It’s not entertainment; it’s a friendly challenge. There are all kinds of aims behind these many exercises we keep running our community through, but there is one that’s paramount to all others right now — to build our capacity for empathy.
Artists ask audiences to see things from a different point of view, they want us to witness things that we can’t imagine, and they pressure us to face things that don’t make any damn sense. And, for the most part, they ask us to do this with others. Like a muscle that needs use, experiencing art is about keeping your empathy in tone.
Whatever’s happening now is a test of our empathetic fitness. Sure, people are holed-up for self-preservation, but this mysterious thing travelling among us and making plain how connected we are is also forcing us to care for each other in different ways. It’s demanding us to make sacrifices of all kinds and sizes to ensure the well-being of people near to us and of strangers we’ll never know.
Things seem radically altered, but if your empathy muscles are toned and your mind is in tune then this is really nothing that new. To seek experiences with the arts is to be in the habit of looking outside of the self, a step that has to be taken if we want to live in a world where we look out for one another.
Minister of Energy, Minds, and Resources
Wednesday 1 April 2020
Image by NAC Member Clint Lown