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the importance of the arts in communities and schools
Mitch Anderson, Co-Chair of the Artists in Residence Ministry at Trinity, shares his perspective and pinpoints why art matters.
This spring at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago has been a busy time in the visual arts. In addition to our 11th Annual Art Exhibit, we’re exhibiting Black Comics, as well as a memorial exhibit to arts pioneer Margaret Burroughs, and culminating with a visit from Mark Bradford on May 22, a world-renowned visual artist. Mark has chosen Trinity (from any on the globe!) as the church home to whom he’s bringing his message of art and community!!
But as you may have noticed, these activities stand in stark contrast to what we see in our country today; political partisanship has fueled attitudes ranging from apathy, to outright hostility towards the funding and valuation of art programs across the country.
Compelling research demonstrates participation in arts programs help children read and write better, be more focused in class, raise test scores, develop higher self-esteem, and solve problems more creatively. Art programs involve communication, interpretation and understanding of complex symbols similar to mathematics and foreign languages. Learning these skills helps to develop high order analytical skills as well as skills of evaluation and synthesis. Many art programs make the child regularly use different skills in turn making them very dynamic and versatile. This helps children form positive attitudes about themselves and others while building self-esteem.
So what can we do? Despite the art-challenged atmosphere in which we find ourselves, there are many ways to fight back! There are numerous ways you can experience the arts. For example, taking a young person (and an open mind!) to the nearest art gallery or museum—Mark Bradford’s opening at the MCA on May 26 would be a great start!
Mitch Anderson’s artwork include illustrations used in magazines and publications, as well as gallery pieces focused on the human form. His exhibitions include the South Side Community Art Center auction, and the Black Creativity exhibit, on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Photos (top to bottom): Mitch leads a recent youth workshop ”Drawing Superhero & Funny Comics”; youth Summer Project, a mural commemorating Trinity’s dedication of it’s “George Washington Carver” garden and Farmer’s Market; Mitch with young workshop participants. All photos provided courtesy of Trinity United’s Artists in Residence.
Mark Bradford is Totally My Best Friend
The first time I met Mark Bradford I was in my office working, balancing cross-legged on my yoga ball while furiously typing a presentation for my next meeting. Oh, and I may have been chewing 2-3 pieces of gum. Suddenly tall, handsome, bespectacled Mark Bradford swept in my office and said, “So this is where all the black folks are!” and laughed. I wobbled to a standing position, covered my mouth and said, “Hi! I’m Angelique, I love your paintings and unfortunately I’m chewing a lot of gum right now.”
“Gimme some,” he said and then plopped down in my office for the first of many chats. Tricia Van Eck, the curator of Mark’s exhibition who is never far behind him when he is in town, soon ducked inside and sprawled on my office floor where we all laughed, chewed gum, and talked about everything from Teddy Pendergrass (see www.Pinocchioisonfire.org) to James Franco, to Facebook. When he left I felt like I had a new play cousin.
Next time he came to town we met up again, at Theaster Gates’ amazing art residence project (see Theaster’s blog entry) for a night of conversation and laughter. I crossed the room to shake his hand and introduce myself again. “Angelique!” Mark exclaimed and gave me a hug. Damn he’s good with names, I thought.
During dinner at one point he started talking about growing up in the church and his desire to do a traditional Visiting Artist talk in a nontraditional setting—like inside a church—to people who may or may not be familiar with the MCA, or his work, or contemporary art. A few trustees there belong to Trinity United Church and so an idea was born.
Zoom to a couple weeks ago. Mark and I are crossing the city in a cab back from our lunch with some amazing, thoughtful artists and members of Trinity United. Once we confirm the next steps on the project we switch gears and are suddenly giggling in the backseat over things that have nothing to do with art and topics I shall not disclose in this blog. Once again, I forget that I’m sitting across from one of the preeminent artists in the world today who’s work sells for millions of dollars, is a MacArthur Genius…I mean…GENIUS…and beyond that is creating work that re-defines abstract painting. I’m just hanging with my boo, Mark.
And here’s the thing. I’m not unique. I’m not special. This is how Mark approaches each person, every project, every trustee, every collector, every day. He sees the world in relationships, opportunities, and authentic interaction. Whether you are standing in front of him, or in front of his paintings. He is directly in conversation with YOU – seeing and appreciating you for who you are and what you bring to the table. So…yes. He is totally my best friend. And yours, too. We can share.
— Angelique Power, Director of Communications and Community Engagement, MCA; Images (top to bottom): Angelique in her office; Angelique with Mark Bradford and Theaster Gates, in Gates’ library/dining room. Photographs by Mark Randazzo.