Valdosta Daily Times

What We Think

January 24, 2013

The Arts: A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

VALDOSTA — Sometimes when the world poses harsh challenges, the arts answer in a voice of passionate reflection. Sometimes when a region is wracked with violence and tragedy, it can be tempting to place the arts aside and focus on the grave issues before us.

South Georgia has faced a grim start to the New Year. The Times’ front pages have reflected these horrible incidents from the past days and weeks.

Amidst such tumult, one may ask, why the arts? Why now?

For one answer, perhaps, we should look no further than French composer Fernande Decruck. This weekend, Valdosta State University saxophonist Joren Cain will perform the Georgia premiere of Decruck’s Sonata in C# with the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra.

Decruck lived from 1896-1954. She composed her Sonata in C# in 1943 during World War II. She lived and composed in Paris during the Nazi occupation.

We often forget that the arts are not simply to entertain but to better understand the world’s pain. The arts are a transcendent reflection that, even in the darkest hour, there remains the promise of hope.

In the rich pageant of history, both chaos and creativity have existed hand in hand. History contains many examples of this duality.

Beethoven composed “The Emperor” Piano Concerto No. 5 as Napoleon bombarded Vienna. Abraham Lincoln found solace from the Civil War in the words of Shakespeare. Londoners defied Hitler’s bomb raids by attending the theatre. Picasso found the powerful statement of “Guernica” in the horrors of war. John Steinbeck’s travels during the Great Depression inspired “The Grapes of Wrath.” Vincent Van Gogh’s colorful paintings defy the suffering of his life.

In mankind's distant past, when our ancestors possessed little hold on the earth, humans hunted and battled by day then sung songs and painted figures on cave walls by night.

Some may be tempted to sound the old Roman phrase of bread and circuses regarding the arts in times of uncertainty. Instead, we should view our area’s art events as wellsprings of hope, faith and perseverance, as a sign of mankind’s indomitable will to make sense of madness.

In times of trouble, in times of chaos, we need the arts more than ever.

 The arts offer a balm to the troubled, an inspiration to overcome disasters, and order in the midst of chaos.

Will attending the Valdosta Symphony this weekend solve any social ills? Will sitting in the audience of Theatre Guild Valdosta’s poignant production of “The Trip to Bountiful” tonight through Saturday change the world?

Maybe not. But these performances may give a person the strength to carry on and inspire others to make the world just a little bit better.

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