Make this the year to get involved in community arts

By Trudy D’Armond

Special to The Courier-Herald

This last year was a sensational year of performances and visual art on the Plateau. Decades of experience, training and rehearsals bring to this local community the very finest of performances ranging from city-sponsored events, ballet, orchestral concerts, community theater, band and visual arts. I like the quote from Pablo Picasso where he states, “Every child is an artist.”

Funding and grants can be withheld. Rental costs of facilities sky-rocket and make it nearly impossible for non-profit groups to break even. We may even have to perform in unheated facilities in freezing temperatures, but perform we will. We are the art of humankind. We are the performers and dancers, the singers, the instrumentalists and artists that seek your attention while expressing a story through imagination and creativity using our most important instruments. Those instruments would be our hearts, intelligence and sense of empathy.

Next month, a year will have passed since I started writing a monthly art column for The Courier-Herald. In the first column, I laced it with a variety of challenges to anyone who might have one time played a musical instrument, sung in a choir or acted in high school or community theater to think about getting in touch with that creative spark that may lay dormant inside of them. I suggested dusting off that old guitar and putting some new strings on it.

If you did this, congratulations! If you took that tiny, simple step to touch that creative spark in your soul, bravo! You are my hero! Look for opportunities, not road blocks. You don’t have to be a rock star or have majored in visual arts to produce something lovely to the ear or eye.

What does it take to inspire a person to take a couple watercolor lessons at the Arts Alive! location on Cole Street? Have you sketched with a pencil and paper as a youth? Did you ever get compliments that inspired you, but decided later you just didn’t have the time to devote to drawing or painting? Are you that someone?

I love old dance/musicals. I’m talking about movies with Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Debbie Reynolds. I also loved the old comedies with Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Laurel and Hardy and yes, I confess, even the bizarre antics of The Three Stooges. I adored Danny Kaye, Bob Hope and The Marx Brothers. These movies, along with Saturday morning Looney Tunes, formed my definition of music, entertainment, dance and humor. I bet I’m not the only one who grew up listening and watching a black and white TV, curled up on the rug with a bowl of popcorn.

The stars of black and white TV made it look easy. To a young person the challenge of such talented feats might have seemed obtainable when dancing in secret, when no one would see them. Are you a “closet” dancer or singer? Are you looking back regretting you never got involved with community theater or dance? It’s out there waiting for you.

It was always fun to hear my mom or dad sing songs that were popular in their youth. Do you sing in front of your children? My folks weren’t great singers but they could carry a tune and they always had a twinkle in their eye when they sang. The message I got from them was to create a sound with your voice was fun!

The Courier-Herald is packed with information about how to become involved in local performing and visual arts. You can contribute your enthusiasm to expand your creative skills whether you are going to school or if you’re into your golden years of retirement. If you can still dream, it’s not too late.

People ask me all the time when the next Stage Door Productions or Cascade Foothills Chorale performances will be. These are the folks who haven’t read The Courier-Herald or not looked on our generous merchants’ windows for detailed posters. Check your mailbox for handy postcard notifications from the Gateway Concert Band. Go on-line and use your favorite search engine to find the name of any local performing group to see dates and times of their next performance. If this is the first time you’ve picked up The Courier-Herald in a very long time, I suggest you make a habit of reading it. Your local paper is the very best source of information regarding, local entertainment, meetings and local events.

I’d like to interject a quote by Les Brown who was born with his twin brother in an abandoned building in Miami, Fla., in 1945. He was adopted at 6 weeks of age by a single woman who lived in poverty by the name of Mamie Brown. In the fifth grade, Brown was wrongly declared “educably mentally retarded” and had to repeat the fourth grade as well as the eighth grade due to his misdirected energy, and his teachers’ failure to discover his true potential. He has gone on from morning DJ to broadcast manager; from community activist to community leader; from political commentator to three-term state legislator in Ohio; and to be a keynote speaker for audiences as big as 80,000, including Fortune 500 companies.

Les Brown says, “We must look for ways to be an active force in our own lives. We must take charge of our own destinies, design a life of substance and truly begin to live our dreams.” I like that and Mr. Brown can say it fair better than I can.

This kind of information picks me up, dusts my stagnant ambition off and points me to look at the possibilities. Yes, even at my age I believe I still have potential to give creatively. Time will tell.

This new year can be the time to inspire, grow and be creative. It can be the year you decide to step out of that “safe” environment and explore a new, beautiful side of life. Whatever the new year brings, may it be a new adventure that puts a creative sparkle in your eye. We have 365 days coming up that will make up the year 2010. It’s my sincere hope that you’ll experience love, forgiveness, friendship, respect and especially the joy of creating something beautiful. Happy New Year’s!

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