Over the Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to volunteer at HeARTWorks, an art program that meets once a week at Stewpot in downtown Jackson. I have been volunteering with HeARTWorks over the past several years and was looking forward to seeing old friends. When I walked toward the doors of the building, I was expecting a relatively uneventful day of helping the clients lay out canvas drop cloths to be splattered with bottles of paint in a Jackson Pollock-esque style. When I made it to the second floor of the building, I was greeted with many welcoming faces from people spread out around the room with hands laid on top of round tables eager to get started.
After twenty minutes of prepping the plastic paint bottles we were ready to begin. With several unsure, first-time volunteers also helping in this totally new project, the helpers themselves were also timid and unsure of how to use the bottles. Still, these minor intimidations did not keep the clients at their tables and hold back their desires to express their love of art. With only a few words of encouragement, the canvas started to come to life. What followed was two hours of fun, laughter, and joy as everyone in the room united in their effort to create something beautiful.
Despite the differences of all of the people in the room, the art project became our common goal and helped open communication. People who thought they had nothing in common with each other began to work as a team and smile at the colorful “mess” being created. Conversation flowed and intimidation dissipated. The freedom of spreading bottles of paint on a canvas with friends and kind faces invited laughs, smiles, and a welcomed break from our own routines.
I am reminded of the importance of art in our society, how it opens our eyes and helps us understand others like a common language spanning across all human identities. There is no right or wrong in art ... every work created with care is appealing to someone somewhere. People must work together and welcome their differences, so that the vast colors on the finished canvas mirror the diversity of the people in our community.