An Artsy New Year

The New Year often brings about hasty makeovers, resolutions that last about two weeks and restarted attempts at fresh perspectives. There’s a possible solution to failed resolutions: creativity. Free yourself from making a resolution for a slimmer body or promising not to swear anymore, and get creative with your daily outlook.

Surrounding yourself with art and artists can help inspire your creativity.

According to Sadie Dingfelder, senior editor of the American Psychological Association Monitor on Psychology, “Everyone can benefit from art, music, painting, writing and other creative acts.” And in a recent APA convention session, Tetsuro Matsuzawa from Kyoto University in Japan, suggested that “creativity might be, in part, what makes humans so special.” Creativity ― whether exercised or experienced by an individual — has a positive effect on that individual’s life, stimulating thought, conversation and new perspectives.

Sounds like a New Year’s resolution of putting more creativity in your life would be a positive and rewarding experience. And it’s easier than you may think. On a very basic level, there is a variety of ways to be more creative on a daily basis. Specifically, there are innumerable ways to experience creativity through the arts, especially in Columbia.

Many falsely believe the arts are either children’s activities (doodling, school plays or concerts) or pursuits in the realm of academics and high society. Chris Stevens, manager of Columbia’s Office of Cultural Affairs and co-owner of PS:Gallery, points out that “art is more accessible than people think.” Art exists in all forms, from preschool classrooms to nature and gallery or museum walls. It is made for people, by people, and among many purposes, should be experienced by people. (Some studies suggest animals enjoy art as well).

Stevens suggests taking a risk and encourages people to “just go and try it, take a chance.” By taking a chance to experience the arts, Stephens wholeheartedly believes that people won’t regret it.

In Columbia, there are opportunities to see a show at one of Columbia’s many different theaters, go to a gallery opening or watch an independent film at Ragtag Cinema. Stevens points out that the price of a regular movie ticket is only slightly less than that of a ticket to most local ballets, concerts, symphonies or theater productions. The return on investment of going to a local dance, music or theater production, though, is exposure to local musicians, performing artists and actors in an original production that is intended to be experienced in a live format.

Arts events are also typically social events that encourage groups of people to attend and discuss what they experience. That doesn’t mean you need to know anything about what you’re seeing, though, so you can’t use the excuse “but I don’t know anything about 20th-century early modernist painting” to get out of going of an opening of that sort, Stevens says. “Even if you don’t know anything about a piece of art and it’s just visually appealing to you, that’s more than enough of a foundation to have a conversation about that work of art or just contemplate more deeply about why it’s visually appealing to you,” he says. Just thinking about a work of art can help stimulate your descriptive skills and help you hone in on visual forms that either appeal to you or not.

If groups of people talking about art intimidate you, or perhaps you want to ease your way into the arts, the Office of Cultural Affairs produces a public art guide that is free to the public. Using the guide, Columbians and visitors can spend all day exploring the public art of Columbia ― without spending a penny or having to say a word. Take a walking tour of downtown Columbia’s public art collection and get a fresh perspective on the visual landscape of the community and how art affects dynamic, urban space.

Artrageous Fridays, a quarterly public gallery crawl with a festival feel, is free and open to the community. At these events, local businesses and galleries open their doors to the public and offer free food, drink and live music. The evening “promises awe and inspiration” with artist demonstrations, storytelling, poetry readings, dance performances, art exhibits and interactive activities. The next Artrageous Friday is Jan. 18 and could get you started on your resolution to add more art to your life.

See and support local artists and businesses by attending and if you like a piece of locally produced art, buy it. Buying an original work of art means much more than any other type of purchase, Stevens says. “It’s going to stick with you, have a story and become part of your life,” he says.

The Office of Cultural Affairs also publishes a Columbia gallery guide, which lists museums, galleries and visual art opportunities in Columbia. The guide encourages readers to “think about what’s on your walls at home and at work. Displaying original art gives a space character and distinguishes it in a way that other items cannot.” Buy original pieces of local art, big or small, inexpensive or expensive (because not all art is expensive), and make the space around you on a daily basis more creative and influential for your daily routine.

On the other hand, says Columbia Art League Director Diana Moxon, “One of the great things about Columbia is how easy it is to add arts to your life at no cost!” The Columbia Art League, in addition to being a gallery of local and regional artists, is also another means of getting in touch with the arts in Columbia.

“Even before I started to work at the Columbia Art League, I thought it was an incredible resource,” Moxon says. With six different art shows throughout the year, there is always something new to peruse and enjoy — free of charge. What better way to get creative than to chat with an exhibiting artist over a glass of wine! And unlike museum settings, if visitors see something in the gallery that resonates with them, they are encouraged to purchase it. The Columbia Art League recognizes that buying art can be a daunting financial burden at times, so Moxon says, “We introduced a payment plan, so you can split the cost up into monthly installments ― something which has been very popular with people.” There are also plenty of works of art people might not readily consider to be “art,” but are, in fact, works of art.

“Buying art isn’t only about investing $5,000 in a painting.” Moxon says. “Not many people can do that. Art can be a vibrant scarf, a handmade coffee mug, a pair of beaded earrings, a wooden box, a steel flower for your yard.”

Moxon also suggests another, more obvious way people can add art to their life: Make it!

“I think a lot of us get scared off by art classes when we’re teenagers and we go through life thinking we can’t draw,” she says, “but deep down, we would really like to learn.” The Columbia Art League offers classes for children and adults, and Moxon says a lot of people are surprised by how easy it is to express themselves through art. She says one of the best perks of her job is to watch people start to perceive of themselves as artists.

Yet another way to get involved with the arts is to volunteer at an artistic event. Columbia’s numerous, annual festivals and events are always in need of volunteers to help make the events a success. Sign up to help with the True/False Film Fest, Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival or Art in the Park, which, Moxon add, often needs more than 200 volunteers to make the event happen and in turn, she says, “The event helps people realize that art really is for everyone — even them.”

There’s no shortage of opportunities, no matter what your interests are,” Stevens says. “People just need to get out there and take advantage of it all!”

Creativity 101
Here are some quick and easy ways to achieve your creativity resolution.

How to be more creative:

  • Do one small craft activity each week.
  • Spend 5 minutes each day doodling.
  • Take more time to make everything ―from cooking to exercising — more meaningful and fun.
  • Allow yourself to daydream.
  • Write. Write down your thoughts, dreams, ideas, opinions. Write a letter. Just write to write.
  • Turn off the television at night and draw, paint, read or work on a hobby.
  • Doodle.

How to have more art in your life:

  • Visit local galleries.
  • Go see a live theatrical production.
  • Take in a concert.
  • Volunteer at a museum or theater.
  • Start buying and collecting original works of art.
  • Hang original works of art in your home or office.

Small ways:

  • Draw with your kids.
  • Take your camera (not just your phone) with you more often.
  • Learn how to take photos with an analog film camera.
  • Purchase something small from a local gallery.
  • Cook something new each week.
  • Read a book a week.
  • Try new music.
  • Go see a play or live performance.
  • Go to the ballet.
  • Take an art or music class.
  • Join a dance class.
  • Go to an open-mic session
  • Watch a documentary.

Big ways:

  • Start a club for cooking, wine, books … any creative endeavor you enjoy.
  • Join the Columbia Art League.
  • Plan a trip to see art collections around the country and the world.
  • Organize an art show in your home.
  • Write a screenplay or novel.
  • Invest in one substantial original piece of local art each year.
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