Looking at a beautiful San Diego sunset I thought of how there’s so much about our city that lends itself to art. A clip of a radio show on KPBS that a friend of mine, Seema Sueko, a leader in the San Diego arts scene, shared with me played a major part in my thinking.
On the show she expressed that she felt Carl DeMaio was a “little unfriendly” to arts and culture in our city. That really resonated in my mind because the arts, to me, is what life is all about as the arts let us explore who we are and who we might become. It could do the same for a city.
I realized just how essential the arts are to our well being as a society back when I was a beginning classroom teacher in Room B5 at Perry Elementary in the Bayview Naval Housing area.
I remember a November day after recess when we turned the radio on and heard an announcer say: “President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is dead!” Oh, the dread. We sat stunned with bowed heads. And when that day was done we had all been transposed into poets, as poetry, in our sadness, was the only way we could express ourselves. The outpourings were lovely as the sunset that caught my eye.
So many of my students’ fathers were in Vietnam back then and we wrote prose and poems and painted pictures that reflected both our most depressing apprehensions and our hope inspiring conversations about what a better world looked like.
The Civil Rights movement was going full speed and we improvised scenes from what we were hearing and seeing and performed our insights at school assemblies and before the PTA. Memories of a dance we created to Cannonball Adderly’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” is still vivid in my mind today. We got down.
The critical thinking abilities of these children sharpened as they learned to trust their right brains, their human instincts, their artistic open minded selves, their ability to look at their world with open eyes and ears and hearts.
So, naturally, with such feelings as these, I’m not prone to want to support someone with very little artistic sensitivity like Carl DeMaio, someone who isn’t considering ways for us to match the natural beauty inherent in our coastal surroundings with creative activities that enhance our souls.
We could become as beautiful as our sunsets I’d like to think.
On the same show, Ms. Sueko recalled hearing Bob Filner speak of the need for “art for arts sake,” getting into what it does for individuals and what it does for a community. Amen. San Diego has a rich array of incredibly talented artists of all stripes and with the leadership of someone like Filner we could see the arts take on a more prominent role in making our community an even greater place to live, work and visit. We could see our city government acting as an active partner with the arts world in addressing the city’s challenges and opportunities in the areas of economic development, quality of life and education.
Hey, that’s how they roll in Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love has a Mayor’s Cultural Advisory Council that is dedicated to creating a world-class creative city where:
the arts are accessible and relevant to residents and visitors; the arts, culture and the creative economy are incorporated into the core of the city’s economic development, tourism, promotional and community revitalization strategies; access to high quality cultural experiences and arts education are provided for all the city’s children (this is the grabber for me); it is ensured that artists, cultural organizations and creative businesses have access to the resources they need to be successful.
That’s delicious thinking, isn’t it, to create a city that thinks along aesthetic lines? With his deep understanding of just how vital art is I’d venture to say that Bob Filner would guide us into approaching community building in much the same manner as they are doing in Philadelphia – allowing us to see beyond the mundane and entertain the colorful sunsets in our collective imaginations.
And, who knows, maybe, artfully thinking, a concept like America’s Finest City could become a reality as opposed to an empty slogan. That, to me sounds as beautiful as our amazingly stunning sunsets.