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John Eggers: Art: Food for the soul

Become an artist. That may be the best way for kids to succeed in school and for adults to solve big problems.

Artists come in all sizes and shapes. There are young and old and big and small and tall and thin and short and not-so-thin artists. They all have one thing in common: their work feeds their soul and the souls of others. They dearly appreciate the arts, which also come in all sizes and shapes.

I recently told a mother whose son was playing in the band that she should do whatever possible to keep him playing. As an educator, I have known very few students who were involved in the arts that did not do well in school.

This is the message to parents. If you want your kids to do well in school, get them involved in the arts. If more of our students were involved in the arts, we would have a better chance of solving some of our world's most complex problems. In fact maybe, just maybe, a prerequisite for becoming a politician is that they should first be an artist.

No matter what medium of art one chooses: painting, drawing, illustrating, designing, music, photography, jewelry making, sculpture and so on, a spark of creativity has to glow. When you tap your creative brain cells, your brain is working at a higher level, which is exactly what is needed to solve problems and succeed in those advanced placement classes in high school.

When you don't tap the creative part of your brain, your cells are not used and when they are not used, those cells become weak, kind of like a muscle. If you don't use them, as the saying goes, you lose them.

When I was in school, we had no organized art program in elementary school or high school. This was true in most rural towns. Art education was considered a luxury that only big schools could afford.

There were lots of students in my grade who had wonderful drawing ability but because they had no way to showcase it, their artistic talents were not recognized. They were not out for sports so school really meant very little to them. To this day, I feel those kids were cheated out of an education. Education without the arts is no education.

Today, there are lots of opportunities for all ages to be involved in the arts. Schools offer art experiences for kids at all levels as well as the Boys and Girls Club.

Bemidji is a city of the arts and for the arts. We have sculptures all around town. There is the Region 2 Arts Council and Gallery North. We have a plethora of music opportunities starting with our schools and university, plus churches and the Bemidji Music Center.

All people have some artistic talent. It just has to be tapped. Vincent Van Gogh said, "If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."

There are at least three things you can do to tap your hidden artistic talent and the advice comes from good ol' Charlie Brown. First, give arts a try. "What's the good of living if you don't try a few things?" There is something for everyone in the arts. You just have to look for it.

Second, hang around art. Charlie Brown says, "I think I've discovered the secret of life - you just hang around until you get used to it." Most things in life that we don't understand or like are a result of not really knowing much about them.

Third, just do it. What's the worst that can happen by taking a class in painting or learning to play the guitar or going to a concert or visiting an art gallery? One other thing, you are never too old to become an artist. Grandma Moses was in her 70s. Our friend Charlie Brown reminds us, "Just remember, when you're over the hill, you begin to pick up speed."

Sometimes artists are known to be, how do I put it, out in leftfield. This bit of strangeness is a blessing to all of us. Oscar Wilde said, "No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist."

This is why art is so refreshing. It feeds not only the artist's soul but also the souls of others. Art is like spring time, like picking a strawberry, like hearing a loon, like riding the Ferris wheel and being stopped at the very top. Art helps us see things differently.

There will be a lot of soul feeding at Art In The Park this weekend. Do come and be sure and bring the kids. Remember, there is an artist in everyone and keep those kids playing the tuba. They may want to be president some day.