Jared Bowen on why arts matter

On May 23, 2017, WGBH Boston, the region’s local PBS station, graciously hosted the 5th Annual Department of Youth Services (DYS) Showcase.


The event featured inspiring, thought-provoking, live performances and incredible, vivid, often very personal visual art for sale by extremely talented youth who are part of DYS across the Commonwealth. ASP is proud and honored to be deeply involved in arts programming with DYS youth during their time in the system, as well as after they leave and choose to continue to participate in our youth programs.


Jared Bowen headshot WGBH May 2017Jared Bowen, Executive Editor/Host for WGBH’s arts program, Open Studio, allowed us to share his opening remarks, which so eloquently mirror ASP’s belief in the power of art to inspire audiences of all ages and transform our communities: 


“First, I want to thank you all for being here today.  Actually I want to applaud you. You’re here because you are artists.  Because already you’ve staked some claim in the world by how you see it. How you interpret it. How want to reflect it. Something you’ve done through your art and what you’ve made.  That is not easy. We live in a world where artists aren’t always respected or treated fairly.  Where they don’t always have support and aren’t always appreciated.  Well let me tell you, the problem is them, not you. Because for as long as there’s been a world, there have been artists.  Humankind has always told its story through song, through dance, through pictures, stories and words.  Because you’ve already had the courage to express yourselves and to get your art out into the world as I’ve just seen right here in our studios, I salute you.


I have a television show here at WGBH where each week I interview painters, singers, actors, dancers, sculptors, photographers and more.  Over the years, I’ve spoken with a lot of artists about how and why they work.  People you’ve probably heard of. Like Meryl Streep, Channing Tatum, Anna Kendrick, Sarah Bareilles.  They’re all pretty famous people who get lots of attention and have won loads of awards. But it took a lot of work and a lot of conviction to get where they are today.  As successful as they are, they’re all people who’ve had doubt about what they do and how they do it. But they found ways to overcome it. Essentially with a belief in their talent and why being an artist is so important to them. The answer to that, by the way is that art is what fuels them most. What makes them most happy and fulfilled.  Before Beyonce was Beyonce or Adele was Adele, they were both girls who just liked to sing and perform. It’s because they worked hard and believed in themselves that other people took notice and they turned into the megastars they are today.


Of course you also need to have talent and being an artist doesn’t mean having to have the success of today’s biggest pop stars.  I actually think the most important work being done by artists is being done in our own communities right now.  These are tough times in the world. Our country is horribly divided by politics.  We’re seeing relentless acts of violence and terrorism. Economic pressures have a lot of families on edge.


So what is one of the best places of refuge? The arts. We listen to music to change our feelings, our moods or to sing at the top of our lungs lyrics that best represent who we are. We see shows that help us escape for a couple of hours or where we can see our struggles worked out on stage before us. We watch dance to remind us how important it is just to embrace and have human contact. Or we look at paintings or Instagram pictures to affirm the belief that there really is so much beauty in the world.


How fantastic then, that you all are on the path to be doing that for your own community.  I want to tell you briefly about a piece of art that really affected me recently.  It was part of an art show, but not in a museum and not by artists you’d likely ever heard of.  It was outdoors and it was free.  The exhibition was by a group called Studios Without Walls and it was installed along the Riverway in Brookline. It was titled: “Everything You Can Imagine Is Real.” It was there for anyone who wanted to find it. For people catching sight of it on the T or just driving by in their cars. Or for people who just happened to be in the park.


About 15 artists created works that had a variety of messages.  One created large scale underwear—it was part of her Big Girl Pants series. Funny to see, but with a pointed message. Another created a tree creature out of moss and twigs that was just way cool look at.  And in her piece, the organizer of the exhibition wrapped trees in a material that, from a distance, made it look like they were disappearing.  Like forests throughout the world.


But the piece I couldn’t stop thinking about was by artist Freedom Baird. You had to look up high to find it. Way up in branches that spread out over the park, you found a series of homes. They were tired and worn.  They had limbs growing out of them and moss. They had clearly been abandoned.  It was the artist’s reflection on what’s happening in the war-torn areas of Syria right now. How entire cities have been shelled. How people have been killed or evacuated becoming refugees and leaving their homes behind. And if that conflict persists, those homes will only be inhabited by nature someday soon.  Just like the artists’ homes.


Because of that little sculpture, up on a tree branch right here in Brookline, I have a drastically different impression of the news out of the Middle East.  I was certainly aware of the realities and tragedies before I looked up into those branches.  But that piece of art made me emotionally understand what’s happening in Syria in a way I hadn’t before.


That is the power of art. That is the power of what you’re doing right now. You have the opportunity to profoundly influence people. Whether it’s a portrait you paint of your mom that makes me reconsider how I see my own.  Or a work that you create to express your feelings about what you saw unfold in Manchester, England at the Arianna Grande concert last night. You have a skill and way of looking at life that is different from most people on the planet.  Own it. Use it. Enjoy it. And always, rise up to it.”


Thank you, Jared, for letting us repost your speech!



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