Travelling around the US, as much as we have been, you learn to notice signals that determine the culture of a community, or if there is actually a community at all. When small main street businesses are boarded up and have layers of dust collecting on park benches, among unattended gardens, it signals that something is missing.
There are varying stages of such towns. Some you can see being revitalized. New restaurants opening, homegrown businesses filling up closed spaces, and gathering places filled with people chatting over coffee.
One factor that I have found to be an impetus to such change is the presence of an art community. Art, music, and literature bring a town to life! Small galleries host events that bring together creative types and allow for discussions of collaboration.
One such place, Brian Scott Gallery, here in Brookings, Oregon, has a restaurant in the basement, art from local and regional artists everywhere, and a meeting place on top floor where people gather on Thursday Brown Bag lunch breaks with music and art talks.
Various other events throughout the year bring locals and tourists together, such as festivals, art walks, and music in the park. A local bookstore also has local writers’ book signing events where you may be inspired to write your first poem since school.
Patrons of local art and artists themselves often bequeath funds to build community art centers where people can go to hone their artistic talents, or find out what that talent might be. I joined a photography group just last night which met at the local art center and found out I can also learn to do clay projects there as well. It is no longer intimidating to me knowing I have experienced guides by my side.
Now, imagine a place where none of this exists. The sense of community is very difficult to find when at first blush all you see is concrete with street lights, dust, and weeds. Remove art and music and a large part of community goes with it. And it’s not difficult to use your imagination as to what fills that void.
Life is beautiful. Beauty surrounds us no matter where you live. Bring that beauty out in art, music and literature and you also build a community of loving and caring people. We are all born with creativity, but we often need to explore ways to bring it out and share with the world. Your community depends on it!