Watauga Arts Council column for Friday, July 17, 2009 issue
From: Jenny Schrum, Office Manager & Visual Arts Coordinator
Ph: 828.264.1789 Fax: 828.262.4599
“Reading and Writing: Every One’s Art.” I always appreciated that sentiment when the North Carolina Writer’s Network used it as their slogan years ago.
I like the idea that a skill which most of us have had since learning to sound out words in the first grade is a form of art. It makes reading and writing seem more of a talent, doesn’t it?
As with any art form, the writing skill usually takes years of honing to be considered “good writing.” But, of course, that is true of all art forms. Rare is the person who on the first few tries sits down at the piano and begins to play beautifully or picks up a brush and creates a finely crafted painting. For most of us, learning to do something well, means years of steadily working, studying, and trying to improve.
Of course, art doesn’t have to be “good” to be enjoyed. A child painting a picture that ends up on the refrigerator gives little thought to whether or not his drawing is good art. Sitting in the woods strumming a couple of newly learned guitar chords is as much musical art as is a seasoned performance in front of an appreciative audience.
And in my mind, especially for the art of reading and writing, you don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it. Just look at a four year old, sitting in a chair with his grandma while she reads his favorite story book to see that reading is an art form that is as simple and basic as a warm lap.
On the first day of a college journalism class, our professor told us to write the story of our life. He didn’t mean for us to chronicle our lives from the moment of our births and give a summary of the events, times, and dates up until that point. What he meant was to write the story that defined our lives; to write an essay about a pivotal moment that influenced who we were at that moment in time. I wrote about meeting my natural father and getting some answers from him that changed what I had believed to be true. When we turned in the papers, the professor didn’t grade them. He didn’t even read them. The assignment, he said, was purely cathartic. Now we could begin to learn to write for publication.
Most writers have probably written that liberating piece, whether in a diary or as an assignment. And many of them have probably gone on to write books. Here at the Watauga Arts Council in the Jones House Community Center in downtown Boone, we unreservedly offer services and opportunities to writers, as we do artists in all mediums.
One of the first gallery exhibits that I scheduled in my job as visual arts coordinator was titled “The Written Word as Art.” The exhibit featured several pieces of visual art by a number of artists that incorporated writing in the theme, and included handcrafted books, a display of printing and binding, and an evening reading of a play written by John Crutchfield. Helping people see that the written word is indeed art was the focus of the exhibit and it continues to be a focus of mine.
At our monthly gallery receptions, where we welcome the new visual art exhibits into our galleries, we often have local authors in the parlor signing their books. In the past year we have had Michaele Haas signing MeeMa’s Memory Quilt: Treasured Stories of Watauga County History; Judy Geary signing GETORIX: The Eagle and The Bull, a Celtic adventure in Ancient Rome; Maggie Bishop signing Emeralds in the Snow, Appalachian Paradise, and Murder at Blue Falls; Bill Kaiser signing Bloodroot; and Orville Hicks signing Mountain Stories: Mountain Roots and Jack Tales and Mountain Yarns, books transcribed and edited by Julia Taylor Ebel.
The Watauga Arts Council also has a retail booth at ArtWalk across the street from the Jones House where, along with local visual art, we sell about 75 titles on consignment from Parkway Publishers, Inc. and High Country Publishers.
The art of reading and writing is important to the Watauga Arts Council. So be an artist. Write a poem. Read a book. Keep a journal. Embrace an art form meant for everyone.
The galleries of the Jones House are open from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursday. The galleries are also open from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Thursdays during the acoustic jams at the Jones House and from noon to 7 p.m. on Fridays. The galleries are sponsored in part by Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff and Grassroots Funds of the North Carolina Arts Council, in partnership with the town of Boone.
Jenny Schrum is the Watauga Arts Council office manager and visual arts coordinator. Contact her at (828) 264-1789 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She also serves as office assistant for the Jones House Community Center. Contact her at (828) 262-4576.