“Don’t jump!” A letter to a stranger I’ve learned to care for

I was heading to my piano lesson when I got stuck in an unusual traffic jam in Pioneer Square. I called my teacher to let him know that I would be late and asked if he knew what was going on. It happened that at that very moment, a young woman was threatening to jump from the ledge of the King County Courthouse.

Nothing could have made me more distressed. I drove trying not to look up and steered my sight away from the crowd. I didn’t want to see the woman; I didn’t want to watch her jump; I didn’t want to see her dead. I prayed.

I finally parked and headed to my lesson, but my productivity was close to zero. No matter how great the lesson was, my mind was somewhere else. The same happened few hours later, when I was trying to get back to work. All the efforts to keep myself focused were vain. That strategy was clearly not working.

So I did something different. Since I was at the University District at that time, I decided to stop by the Henry Art Gallery. Among all the beautiful things in the museum, there was one exhibit, or better yet, one photograph that caught my attention. It was a photograph by Karl Haendel of a girl crying.

That image inspired me to write. I picked up my notebook and the blunt wooden pencil from the Gallery and started writing a letter – a desperate letter – to that young woman, asking her not to take her life. “Don’t jump, don’t jump, don’t jump.”

And here comes the cheesy part. As soon as I was done with my letter, I was in peace. I left the gallery, attended a meeting and drove back home in peace.

Not sure how that happened, but one question kept coming to me. What is this thing that art has that can transform the entire emotional state of a person? I may never find out what it is, but I know it exists and I’m drawn to places where I can find it.

Regarding the young woman, I know nothing about her, but somehow I’ve learned to like her. She thankfully decided to give another chance to her life. All I hope for her is that she discovers the very thing that transformed me and be inspired to create art so she can transform other people.

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Make Art; Make History – The Arts’ Impact on the Past, Present and Future

Egyptian Sarcophagus

This fall, I had the opportunity to visit one of the biggest museums on earth, the Louvre. One of the pieces that made great impact on me was the collection of sarcophagi from ancient Egypt (see picture).

As I examined each piece, I thought about all the knowledge humankind has gained because of these works of art. If there was no art – no sculptures left, no pyramids, no paintings and carvings on walls and burial grounds – our knowledge about the Egyptian civilization would be very limited.

The Egyptian sarcophagi as well as the countless artworks in the Louvre are great examples of the power of art in the formation and documentation of culture. Take the Italian paintings of the 16th century (see picture below). By looking at just a few pieces, you’ll have an accurate idea about the important role religion played in the social and political spheres of that period.

The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese

Like history books, art can lead us to discover our ancestors’ customs, political tensions, moral values, beliefs, societal hierarchies and so many other cultural aspects.

Coming back to Seattle, I felt happy for having the opportunity to work in the arts field and be constantly fed by the today’s creative minds, be it in dance, music, visual arts, theater or any other art form. At the same time, I know that I am part of the few lucky ones, as most people don’t have many chances to appreciate or create art. When I assess the economic reality of this country, the outlook is not optimistic. I see budget cuts for arts programs, museum closures, art teachers being laid off, and art education programs being eliminated.

This whole experience at the Louvre made me think, when we cut funds for the arts, aren’t we refraining ourselves from creating works that will become history? Aren’t we crippling future generations from knowing about our own culture? When less and less importance is given to arts education, aren’t we depriving our kids the ability to understand the historic, social, political and religious value of a work of art? When we make art superfluous or a luxury item, aren’t we reinforcing that all the knowledge we gain from works of art is also superfluous?

I understand that the current economical situation is one of the worse in the country’s history, but my hope is that these measures are temporary and produce minimal effects. Not investing in arts can be a vicious cycle, as the kids who will grow up without knowing who Leonardo da Vinci was will be tomorrow’s education leaders.

As an arts marketer, my role is to continue to believe and support the wonderful artists I meet every day. As for the future, all I have to do is to hope for the best; hope that future generations have the aspiration to see the arts thrive regardless of the economic situation.