In a world where art is often considered a “dead-end” career, a young artist such as myself can get easily discouraged. Rarely is it realized what an impact art can make on the community, even though art has been repeatedly used as a catalyst for change in society. Often, artists are led to think that their work is unimportant and could never make a difference. The leaders and speakers at this year’s a2ru Emerging Creatives Summit completely blew that small-minded idea out of the water.
I was unsure of what to expect of the summit when I arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan earlier this March. Students across several disciplines were supposed to create project ideas that would “forge resilient communities,” yet all I could think was: surely, about 80% of the disciplines will be in the sciences, mathematics, engineering, and public health. I was convinced that art was simply thrown in the mix as an afterthought. After all, what can art really do that could change lives?
Over those next few days, my eyes were opened. Students formed interdisciplinary teams in hopes of tackling community issues, and I saw firsthand how much art can accomplish. Raw ideas were tossed back and forth between student scientists and student artists, and between student musicians and student engineers. Ideas were verbally molded and shaped into a work of art in themselves. I saw that while a mathematician could bring a logical sequence of steps to the table, a theatre major could tweak the idea into something more personal and passionate. I saw that art does have an important role in the community; art can, in fact, make a huge difference in the lives of those around us.
Further, I had an epiphany: it isn’t simply the art itself that causes the biggest tidal wave in the community, rather, it is the artist him or herself. The mind of the artist is the place where creativity flourishes, blooming idea after idea. The mind of the artist is an adventure where curiosity roams and inspires new investigations and theories. The mind of the artist is unique; it carries perspectives and thoughts that are not usually considered.
Attending a2ru’s 2016 Emerging Creatives Summit allowed me to realize these things. It allowed me to reconsider my worth as an artist to the community. I feel inspired to go out into society with the aim of making a difference, because I now know that I can. My thinking has been completely transformed by this experience. Truly, this is what the college experience is all about.
Bailey K. Barrow is a BFA Studio Art major in Graphic Design at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.