Arts and Cultural Solidarity

In the wake of last year’s presidential election results, no matter who you voted for, there emerged feelings and concerns coming up from dark places inside. Anxiety. Mourning. Real fear. Fear of the Unknown. There were acts of hatred perpetrated upon people of color in towns both large and small.

But yearning for peace is a nonpartisan act.

Art and making is a shared language. Using our hands, eyes, lips—creating art can be tactile and grounding. For many artists, making art is a coping mechanism to find inner calm and some kind of understanding about a confusing, chaotic world. When great works of art are described, qualities often include those of Peace and Beauty. These same feelings are often experienced by artists when they create.

So how might art heal our world? How might the artist become the healer?

We at Perry County Council of the Arts (PCCA) are grateful to have the privilege of seeing this happen in seven counties in central Pennsylvania. Our Arts in Education program administered through our partnership with Pennsylvania Council on the Arts help us execute our mission—connecting our rural community through the arts. In these residency art programs, whether students are elementary-aged or seniors, whether students work together on a mural or work toward a culminating event, these are all experiences of people coming together in community for a bigger purpose that we all might enjoy. As we work, we recognize our similarities, understand our differences, and build something wonderful, together. Ordinarily quiet students open up to each other, friendships are formed, and students with learning disabilities find strong worth and feel valued as part of the team. I’ve seen seriously conflicted community members come together to celebrate a mural, helping build bridges across relationships strained for years.

Art class for many students is a quiet respite, a cathedral of sorts during confused, unsettling times with conflicted emotions regarding peer groups and families. This classroom becomes a place of peace and solace. In this place, we remember our higher purpose, to contribute toward our community and our world. We remember that divisions are superficial, whether they are mental constructs or skin color. It’s what’s inside that’s real, that matters. It’s what we share with others that counts.

Our PCCA Gallery sells the work of over 150 of our member artists of every discipline throughout central Pennsylvania. However, the story I’m going to share is about art that you can’t buy in our gallery. This art is a symbolic manifestation of love, and helps the beholder, and the holder, meditate on their place in our world, and so it’s getting my attention.

The creator is potter Robin Wheeler, one of our PCCA member artists and co-owner of Wheel of Light Studio with her husband, photographer James Wheeler. All pottery is tactile, a part of the earth that we all are connected to, a grounding experience to grasp, a joy to the eye to behold.

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