Art will never let you down

bonnie - tucson, Arizona
Entered on March 10, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: creativity
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

Growing up, I heard the standard message – verbal and between the lines – from the serious, grownup world: You want to be an artist? What, you don’t like food, clothing and shelter on a regular basis? … Get a real career, make smart investments, and amass numbers of real value.

I admit those words scared me off for awhile. It wasn’t until after college that I surrendered to a life of art and writing. I’ve never looked back, and I’ve never starved. And after all these years, any day when I get to write or paint is a good day.

I’m thinking of this now because the world has been teaching us a harsh lesson about what’s real and what’s not. Real estate values proved to be unreal, 401ks have melted like spring snow, and the slippery numbers of the Dow seem unrelated to actual value.

So, maybe it’s time to take another look at the life of an artist – and by that I mean anyone who’s powered by a creative passion. Some of these people scrape by because they don’t have the skill or will to market their talents. Many find practical ways to build careers around their creativity, and a few have become very rich. After all, the most celebrated successes in every endeavor – be it comic books, medicine or computers – are the creative thinkers, the artists of their field, who just see things differently.

And for anyone who needs a firm, quantifiable measure of worth, how about a simple list? Just write down the names of all the artists, writers, musicians, dancers, actors, poets and other creative wizards – current and throughout history – who have touched, moved or inspired people. If you ever finish that list, the final number is your answer.

The truth is, art lasts. Immune to global angst, great music is still great, inspired paintings are still inspired, and books will always excite minds and change lives. In fact, maybe what the world needs today is more art and less of whatever it’s been doing. I’m well into my own grownup years now, and I offer this suggestion: Let’s call a Renaissance.

Not a weekend fair with brocades and funny accents, but a rebirth of fervor for great art and fresh thinkage. Let’s encourage those people who create real riches that cannot be diminished. Let’s support the artists, the writers, and countless creative thinkers who could have the original perspective to solve our shared problems and lead us toward a real and better version of ourselves.

Because this I believe: Art will never let you down.