ArtsLink: How the Arts Enrich Lives

By Jason Young on April 12, 2012 from A&E Blog via

The arts connect human beings with the essence of their humanity.
Now, I suppose that deep statement is a bold way to kick off this blog, but hear me out.
Have you ever noticed when you need inspiration, or quiet peace of mind, you seek out aesthetically pleasing locations, whether they be filled with man-made or natural beauty?
Do you ever wonder why when you have a troubled spirit or a troubled soul, you spend time listening to music?
Does it shock you to realize that when triumph or tragedy impact a society, the most lasting and poignant responses always occur as literature, sculpture, theatre, film, or song?
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, it is because the arts are the most immediate way for one human being to share with another human being what it means to be human.
I was a stocky, arrogant, slightly hotheaded teenager four months shy of my 18thbirthday in August of 2000. Bridgeport High School was holding auditions for their first ever “all-school” play, Grease. For the past 25 years, BHS had presented one major theatrical production a year. They called it the “senior play,” and roles in the show were available only to the school’s senior class. This was a locally historic moment going unnoticed by most. For the first time in the school’s rich history, the entire student body was going to have the opportunity to unite on-stage.
Growing up I was mostly involved in athletics. My parents were kind enough to sign me up for what seemed like a new sport with each passing season. Some I excelled at, like basketball, which became a way of life. But there were others, like soccer, of which I failed to fully appreciate the experience. In those adventures, I was a “one and done.”
I wasn’t completely uncultured. During my formidable elementary years, I sang in the Simpson Elementary School Choir under the direction of Jean Kuhn. I also spent a couple of years singing for Sarah Carr in the Chanticleer Children’s Chorus. I had even, during my junior year, joined the show choir at BHS in pursuit of a girl. I know that sounds cliché, but often times the truth is.
However, singing, acting, and (gulp) dancing in front of my parents, and (gulp, gulp) my peers was going to be a whole new experience; one that I may or may not fully appreciate. I can’t totally recall why I auditioned. I am sure the pursuit of girls was involved, and some not so subtle suggestion from Mrs. Mary Francis Beto Smith, the theatre and choir teacher at the time, was a huge part of it. But, of one thing I am certain ... I do not know who I would be had I not taken part in that show.
During Grease it became instantly apparent that making theatre, expressing myself through that outlet, was something that came naturally. I am not tooting my own horn or being conceited. I am sure my performance was mediocre by my current standards. But the process seemed very natural to me.
There are a lot of life lessons that both the arts and athletics share: courage, hard work, what it means to be part of a team both as a leader and a follower.  But the thing that stands out to me is how much my experience in the arts taught me about me. It is a very odd thing to try and believably be another person, you have to be very comfortable in your own skin and understand yourself first.
Over the last 12 years since Grease I have gotten to be a lot of people: a member of the first continental congress, a Dickinsian ghost, a Grecian slave, a Spanish slave, a Southern Fried Bullfrog, a Biblical founding father, a troubled farm hand, a workhouse operator, a Seussian elephant, and a lion with courage issues.
Each time I got to be a new person, I got more connected with the person that I am.
I have spent the last seven years working as a professional artist. It is now a great pleasure for me to serve as an advocate.
The arts change and enrich lives and in turn, enrich the community that those individuals make up. I believe that with every fiber of my being. I am honored to have the opportunity to assist in connecting the citizens of this community with the art opportunities that surround them.
Check this blog often as together we will take closer looks at the art scene in Bridgeport. Whether it be the multitude of things happening at the high school, the independent artists and companies that work in our community, or the residents who have made or are making a name for themselves in the arts world, it is my goal to keep you connected to the cultural side of the community that I am honored to call home.

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