FORUM

  • Vivian Phillips

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR - THE ARTS ARE NOT A FRILL

Gratitude can never be overstated, in my opinion. Each new day brings a new reason to be grateful, especially in these extremely turbulent times that we are living in. I’m grateful for the art and creativity that often helps to process the world around us. Without art, I often wonder what kind of life I would be living.


In Elisheba Johnson’s profile in this issue, she points out something that bears repeating. She says, "Bringing art into our home that we love centers us and keeps us whole. Learn that you deserve it. Unprogram the part of you that says it's only for the elite.”


I know this can be hard to fathom if you are still programmed to think that you can never own an art collection. And that thought is probably amplified by the recent news that a favorite painting in the Black community, Ernie BarnesSugar Shack, which was the image in the opening credits on Good Times, and the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album, I Want You, sold for $15 million dollars. But I urge you to not be discouraged. Start somewhere.


Colorful painting of Black men and women dancing amongst musicians
Ernie Barnes' 1976 painting, "The Sugar Shack"

Countless hours have been spent examining every detail of that fabulous album cover. The shame is that I did not know the artist Ernie Barnes until many years later. Ernie Barnes was a leading 20th Century artist and the first American professional athlete to become a noted painter. I’m grateful for his art and for the enormous blessing of owning a piece of his work.


My gratitude for art and artists is punctuated as I write this on the 2nd anniversary of the death of George Floyd. It was a time of universal bonding against such heinous acts of anti-Blackness, and it was a time when creativity soared. Murals, spoken word, literature, performance, and all forms of artistic expression emerged to help us process our pain and loss.


My Polaris on the purpose of art is former Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan. In an impassioned 1993 speech to the American Council for the Arts, Jordan said, "The arts are not a frill and should not be treated as such. They have the potential to become the driving force for healing division and divisiveness.


It is with unwavering gratitude that I say thank you to all of the artists who have helped us heal, process grief and pain, and have provided great joy and pleasure. Your contributions can never be overstated either. Our purpose for being here is to illuminate you and your work!