Monday, September 26, 2011

Art: Make it Special, Forget your Worries, and Emotionally Connect with Others

NAU Theatre students Tony Latham, Alex Oliver and Fantasia Noel take us away from it all in "Two Gentlemen of Verona: The Musical."  Photo by Bob Yowell.

 I didn't make it to any cultural events this week.  Instead, I was having many thought-provoking conversations with art and cultural researchers and performers about the value and place of the arts.  I'm sure you already know the value of art in our culture, but sometimes, we need to JUSTIFY and advocate for the them, if only just to remind our own selves of their healthy contributions to our life.

The first conversation was with Dr. Ekkehart Malotki, emeritus professor of modern languages at NAU, about his research on Southwestern rock art.  (More of the story, coming soon.)  We talked about his exciting new discoveries, and his interest in ancient rock art.

"In times of stress and crisis, people resort to the arts," said Malotki.  Rock art is a perfect example.  Art is not essential to daily life, it doesn't feed us or shelter us.  But, as ancient people have exemplified, we "artify" and decorate things because it makes it special.  It helps it to stand out, give it importance, and hopefully influence something.  "Art is a behavior that we are born with," continued Malotki.  Art helps us with our survival, probably because we all need to feel something special at times.  When things are rough, art helps us remember the good.  That's why art is especially important during an economic downturn.

I also got to talk to Darby Winterhalter-Lofstrand, lecturer in NAU Theatre, and director of the Shakespeare adaptation of "Two Gentlemen of Verona: The Musical."  (Go see it, Oct. 14-23 at the Clifford E. White Theatre.)  Lofstrand thinks that her upcoming play will be a huge kick for the audience and will be a welcome relief from the mundane life.  "Musicals suspend our disbelief and get us away from daily grind," she said.  "We're drawn to music as humans."

Ryan Holder, assistant professor and associate director of NAU Choral Studies, agrees with Lofstrand.  He finds that his vocal jazz group, "High Altitude" and other choirs often attain an intimate emotional connection with their audience.  "It doesn't get much more personal than the human voice," he said.  High Altitudes vocal jazz group is performing on Oct. 14 at the NAU Ardrey Memorial Auditorium. Holder is looking forward to taking his professional group, The Sedona Academy of Chamber Singers (comprised solely of current and recent NAU students,) to Cuba in May 2012, and believes that they may have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be musical ambassadors of a sort. 

I think that these three professors hit on very essential points:  We love art because it makes our life special, it transports us away from our everyday lives, and it allows us to emotionally connect with others. 
Emotionally connect with High Altitudes vocal jazz group on Oct. 14 at the NAU Ardrey Memorial Auditorium.  Photo by Maria Nissen.


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