Can you imagine?

Music, art, dance, theater, poetry, stories—I think sometimes we feel the arts are superfluous—they are entertainment, they’re a luxury. I am still reflecting on the Artburst last week at Queens, and I have to say I think we make a huge mistake when we believe that. Can you imagine a world without songs? Or a world without paintings or sculpture? Or a world without storytelling in any form—no novels, no movies, no television shows, no video-game narratives? The arts are integral to our very existence. And not just because they add excitement—which they do—a world without the arts would be dull, drab, tedious, boring. But it would also be redundant (are you getting my point?!?!), the same thing over and over again, without innovation. The arts teach us and allow us to imagine something new—new ways of being and doing in the world. Any type of invention, really, starts with the arts, because it starts with a person who imagines a different story or vision—a different version of how life could be.
While I can imagine a world without the arts, I’m thankful I don’t have to live in one.

A Midwinter’s Day Overture

Well, maybe Earlywinter’s day….at the Faculty/Staff coffee hour this past Thursday, I plopped down on a couch in Burwell Parlor, only to find I had inadvertently chosen the best seat in the house! We were treated to a short but sweet concert when Queens Music Academy students played Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture to “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Watching the two students play the duet was almost as amazing as listening to it; the facility with which they coordinated their movements belied, I’m sure, many hours of practice.
These students might not become professional pianists—although they might! They were wonderful!—but they have already gained so much from those hours of practice—the value of dedication and following through on a commitment; an appreciation for “the big picture” as well as attention to detail—and how attention to detail helps achieve the big picture; insight into a different perspective on the world; a sense of self, and the self-confidence to get up and perform in front of others—the list could go on and on.
It’s great for their audiences, too–I’m just happy I was around when they were playing!

MFA Burst

This is the point where I’m supposed to stop and tell you all the things that are great about having a kid, but I don’t think I’m going to. There are many, of course. Some go beyond the great to the sublime even, but I’ll leave that to the poets. If you have a kid you already know about those moments and if you don’t I’m not sure that they’re interesting in the abstract. Because as it happens there’s nothing abstract about the good parts. It’s like trying to explain why you love the smell of your girlfriend’s hair. Or why a certain slant of light in October makes you decide not to leave this impossible, ruined city. These are important things, essential things really, but they are not transferable. Something in the explanation cheapens them.

–Excerpt from “Songs about Space,” a nonfiction essay by MFA faculty Jenny Offill, published in the BOOMTOWN anthology (Press 53).