Every person has encountered the question “so what do you do?” in conversation. A rather vague question in theory, though it holds so much meaning to me. My favorite answer to this is that I create magic. I take people to new places that they have never been, or maybe to a location that they know quite well. I make an audience feel well traveled, at home, or in a bizarre place they might never had known existed. As a scenic designer, I can tell them a simple answer, “I work for months to make a few pieces of wood and paint for a stage that is only in place for a weekend or a matter of months before they become trash and we start the slate clean again.” Or, I can tell them the reality of my job. Building friendships and a team that works side by side with me as we sketch, plan, draft, and toss out ideas. A team that works for weeks to put together every element of a show from the smallest props to costumes to an edit in a script. In these weeks, we start with just a script in hand and an idea which then blossoms into an entire production. So to put it simply, we create magic. We create stories. We create art.
Art has always been incredibly personal for me. When you make art, you have to try and understand and relate to it. When I paint or sketch or even create digital artwork, you have to be able to feel the brush or the pen in your hand and be one with it. Many of my teachers have had to explain to me that the tool is only an extension of yourself, and your movement will be your success. So whether the thought and the emotion of the piece is related to you or not, you will always have a connection to what you are creating. This being said, art can be anything we create, it does not require meaning, but spirit. We have come to know and love artists like Pollock, who could channel such energy and motion into his work by the application of his paint. As a viewer, we can feel that. Take a second to think about that. We can look at a canvas splattered with paint in a variety of colors and feel the artist’s emotion and know the exact motions they must have been using while making that piece. That kind of storytelling in art is just one of the many reasons I find it so fascinating. Art is universal.
Being universal is an incredible thing. Not even language can be universal. But art is one of those few things that can be. Due to its ability to create another universal language, emotion, art speaks to anyone and everyone. Because of this, art is an incredible tool for education. I am a firm believer that the arts can educate. Whether you are the one creating, viewing, or interpreting the art, you can learn from it. Theatre teaches us incredible amounts of empathy and understanding, which makes it a useful tool in my line of work. If you hear me say anything about my practice, or why the arts are important to keep around, it is because the arts educate. We teach humanity, emotion, skill, and intelligence. We seek to inspire and be inspired. We long for movement. We break down the world into things we can understand. We ask questions. We challenge ideas. There is no better field to converse in. We fear no conversation of politics or human rights. We want to understand, and want others to as well, so we look for answers through our work.
As an artist, I cannot imagine a world without artists. No one can. If we did not have artists and dreamers and those longing to be inspired we would have nothing. Society as we know it would not exist. The computer you might be reading this from, the poster on your wall, the clothes on your back would not exist. Humans cannot evolve without art. Art and its creation are vital to me. I have been creating since I was no more than 2 years old, scribbling on a piece of paper. I made it through our kindergarten class play. I painted and drew and practiced my way through elementary and middle school. I found my muse of the empty stage in high school and I hone my skills now in college. Art and its possibilities are endless. There is no set way to design.
All that matters is that we try and create a little magic ourselves.
by Ali Strelchun, age 20
artist, college student, and former Right Brain student
National Arts in Education Week 2017 - Blog Salon #2