Several weeks ago I took a hip-hop class in which we learned a fun and energetic combination. At the end of the class, the teacher split us into groups to perform the combo one group at a time. Normal dance class—yes. But what the teacher did next proved to me once again that no dance class is just a dance class. It also served to remind me of the hope that people are searching for in these times and confirmed to me the deep importance of art in our culture.
Before the first group performed the routine, she stopped us and had us listen to the lyrics of the song. After she played it, she asked what we heard. Basically the song was saying something like this: “If I ruled the world, everyone would love each other and live in harmony. Everyone would work together and there would be no division between people groups. There would be an end to all this chaos and violence that is so common in our culture right now.” This is a basic paraphrase of the song’s message. After expressing her own passion to see things change in our country, the teacher urged us to keep this “story” in mind as we danced, letting it carry us through the movements.
Artists have a significant voice in our culture; in fact, we always have. Considering our unique way of viewing the world, I believe that artists are a necessary asset to society. Through creative expression, we have a special way of connecting and identifying with people to comfort, unify, and activate. And it is quite clear to me that people are looking to artists these days to give them a feeling of belonging, to make sense of what’s going on in the world, and to have something to identify with. I have found recently that the songs, dances, and pieces of art people have been getting the most excited about are pieces about the struggles, pieces about overcoming obstacles. Because we just want to know that we’re not alone.
I love how art can unify. Obviously in our nation right now politics are at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds. It’s an election year, and based on our candidates, people are becoming more cynical of our government than ever before. I don’t think most people in our country are looking to political leaders anymore for the hope of change. In fact, to many, it all feels quite hopeless. No wonder we are turning to artistic expressions to find some solace, to find some hope, or maybe, sometimes, just distraction.
I was recently at Costco with my roommate, who was wearing a band t-shirt with the new album cover from the band Switchfoot. Switchfoot has a new song called “Looking for America.” The lyrics and message are quite significant, actually. I’ll post the video below if you haven’t heard it. Anyway, the guy at Costco who checked our cart as we were leaving acknowledged her shirt, saying that he loved their new album, specifically that song.
Friends. One song, one lyric, one two-minute dance piece can connect with thousands, sometimes millions of people in ways that politics never will.
Art reaches out and speaks to our hearts, awakens our deepest longings, arouses our passions, reminds us of why we’re alive. Done right, art reminds us of what is most important in life. It makes us feel like there are others who understand, there are others who want to be kind and who desire positive change. That not everyone is out to destroy each other, that most people actually want to get along and help build a better world. People are so hungry for this. I see it everywhere. Not only that, but it’s not hard to see how art gives us common ground. Just think about some of the more popular Netflix shows right now. I mean, isn’t everyone talking about “Stranger Things?” What is it about that show that attracts so many different kinds of people? It’s the humanity, the intrigue, the well-written characters, the nostalgia, and the brilliance of the plot and story. The show might not have all the most uplifting messages, but it’s doing something. In a way, it gives us something to rally around.
I think artists need to stop being afraid to share their creations, or even just to create in the first place. I mean, sure, there are a ton of amazing pieces of art out there, but I think we’re right on the brink of something more—of something so significant that the artistic community can bring to the world. Specifically those who want to bring the message of unity and hope to the culture. We cannot second guess those crazy ideas anymore. We can’t worry about if they will be accepted or not.
Our world needs art, because we desperately need to think outside the box. We can’t keep doing everything the same way over and over. Artists are good at presenting new angles. And I firmly believe that a life can change by reading a book, watching a movie, a dance, listening to a song. Just look at the way people react to pieces like this dance, and you’ll know what people are longing for:
As artists, we must not give up. We must not give in to the depression of our day and age, to the chaos and confusion swirling around us. We must rise out of all that and be the voices which draw out the hope that lies dormant within people. We must be courageous and fight through our own fears and doubts and questions so that people will know they’re not alone. I believe a significant wave of healing and hope is going to sweep through this nation, and that the artists are going to play a massive role in that. Don’t worry about your current position, or your lack of influence right now. Just create. Do what you were wired to do. Go to that class, and put your whole soul into it no matter who’s watching. Put those wild ideas into motion and see where they carry you. See what your courage inspires in those around you.
Fellow artist, we need your voice.