A Luxury Until You Ask: “Did Anybody Feel Like This Before?”

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you probably know that my gold standard for speeches about creative practice is one made by Ira Glass.

This being said, the TED site recently posted a video of Ethan Hawke titled, “Give Yourself Permission to Be Creative” which isn’t far behind Glass. In 10 minutes, he hits all the things we talk about in relation to arts and creativity: how little it is valued; how important it becomes in emotional times; how meaningful people find it in their lives, even though they are reticent to express it.

So you have to ask yourself: Do you think human creativity matters? Well, hmm. Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about poetry. Right? They have a life to live, and they’re not really that concerned with Allen Ginsberg’s poems or anybody’s poems, until their father dies, they go to a funeral, you lose a child, somebody breaks your heart, they don’t love you anymore, and all of a sudden, you’re desperate for making sense out of this life, and, “Has anybody ever felt this bad before? How did they come out of this cloud?”

Or the inverse — something great. You meet somebody and your heart explodes. You love them so much, you can’t even see straight. You know, you’re dizzy. “Did anybody feel like this before? What is happening to me?” And that’s when art’s not a luxury, it’s actually sustenance. We need it.

This is the part that really caught my attention because I think it is emblematic of how people may not feel they can share the delight they have experienced in the creative process:

My great-grandmother, Della Hall Walker Green, on her deathbed, she wrote this little biography in the hospital, and it was only about 36 pages long, and she spent about five pages on the one time she did costumes for a play. Her first husband got, like, a paragraph. Cotton farming, of which she did for 50 years, gets a mention. Five pages on doing these costumes. And I look — my mom gave me one of her quilts that she made, and you can feel it. She was expressing herself, and it has a power that’s real.

He bookends his talk by acknowledging that being creative often involves the risk of looking foolish. But he also says that as humans, we find it is one of the easiest, most natural things to start doing, especially as children. We see/hear something and are moved to start singing, percussing, or dancing in response to it. We might express our affinity by re-creating and recreating (one of the best pair of homographs in English) something through our play.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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