How will we be remembered?
- By Lauren Kelly
The World Trade Center Memorial and Museum is an example of a powerful visual exhibit that thousands of people now visit every day, paying respect to those lives lost fifteen years ago and since. A friend of mine recently visited The WTC Memorial and Museum and shared her thoughts with me: The exhibit brought back the pain and loss she felt that day, as well as thoughts of the heroism and support we all witnessed, and thoughts of the lives lost in response to that day. The hallowed ground brings us back to that moment that changed our world forever. My friend was surprised and saddened that people were talking in the Museum, eating against the names of fallen loved ones by the reflecting pools, and taking selfies in front of the iron beams that once held up those magnificent buildings. This struck a chord in me. Has the reflective and often somber experience of a museum memorial been lost? Have these artifacts that are an integral part of our nation’s history become displays for light hearted amusement?
Visual art is inspired by fear, love, hate, and loss, ultimately resulting in a form of expression. Visual arts can change your perspective on the world, people, and situations; they have the power to change your day and even your life.
I can’t help but wonder how future generations will depict our influential art, the artifacts we treasure, or perhaps more concerning, will there be any definitive art of our time? Artists have played an important role in memorializing and interpreting important events throughout history:
- Cave paintings in Asia and Europe taught us about a prehistoric culture without a common language.
- Greek lines influenced the way we draw today.
- Renaissance Artists commissioned to create works depicting the Bible continue to inspire generations worldwide.
- During World War II, art was so valued that Hitler directed soldiers to confiscate priceless artwork, burning it or making it Nazi property.
- Vietnam anti-war expression through art influenced policy changes.
- Andy Warhol visualized Pop Culture and its societal impacts.
- Steve Jobs and his calligraphy studies at Reed College influenced the font and design of our computers, tablets, and smartphones.
Today, visual arts exposure and education in our schools, our homes, our society, is lacking. Art’s unique values will ultimately affect how our generation is viewed through history. Generations of artists and citizens before us have paved the way, and we have an obligation to continue their legacy. We have a responsibility to cultivate our culture. We need to continue to strive to educate people on the value of art in our society and encourage individuals to contribute through artistic expression because it is the lens through which future generations will view us.
ArtistYear has been an eye-opening experience in many ways. One beautiful reminder is that students want to learn and communicate through the visual arts. If they are given access to the training and mediums, the opportunities are endless. I am dedicated to do everything in my power to expose my students to the importance of art and its value in our culture to create a lens through which we view our citizens, as well as our history.
Lauren is currently serving at Mastery Charter School Harrity Upper in Philadelphia. She is a graduate of Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design.
Photo credit: ArtistYear Fellow Mari Ma