Have you ever been in a situation like this? You’re at a party or a dinner and everyone is talking about Jackson Pollock, and you’re nodding along, smiling, saying, “Oh, definitely” whenever someone says words like “existential” or “ahead of his time”. Inside you’re screaming, “What are they talking about? Was he one of the Jackson 5?”
If this has happened to you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. We’ve all been in a situation where we didn’t know what was going on around us (though for some we’re wondering what a “down” is and why football players have to get them). No one can know everything about everything, and every time we step out of our social comfort zone, we can learn something new.
The arts can seem like a pretty intimidating and vague thing, but here in Saline there are many opportunities to experience art and to figure out how to sound like you know what you’re talking about.
To start, if you’re unfamiliar with something - an artist, concept, weird word, etc, don’t pretend you know - ask questions! If we’ve learned nothing from the movies, if you pretend you know all about something, in the end you’ll probably be found out. Better to say up front, “Now who is Jackson Pollock again, and why should I care?” than be asked a question about him later and have to make something up. (“I loved his harmonies with Michael and Tito and the gang” would be a dead giveaway.) Plus, let’s be real - odds are the people you’re with don’t know as much as they think! Look at it as an opportunity to learn something new.
Next, use what you know! If someone is talking about splatter painting (a method used by Jackson Pollock), share the story of your neighbor painting his house and the bee that plagued him and the ensuing splattery result. You’ll be part of the conversation, and can get a few laughs while helping move the conversation along. A great place to practice this? Salt Valley Arts’ big Open House on Monday October 23rd from 6-8pm! You can learn some new art skills from talented instructors, watch artists at work doing art demos, and look at works of art by local artists.
And speaking of looking at art, if you’re at Salt Valley Arts or wandering around Saline’s Art Walk, don’t just glance at the work of art, take some time with it. How many hours do we spend on a book, movie, music, musical or play? We don’t walk into Saline Area Players’ performance of Oliver! (this weekend at SHS), hear the opening notes from the pit orchestra, and walk back out, considering ourselves to have experienced all that the creators, director, and performers have to give. We sit through the entire show, grab some bon-bons at intermission, and chat with people after about the experience. Now, consider how short a time you spend looking at a painting or sculpture. A quick glance and people feel they’ve seen it, that that’s all it takes.
Next time, take a few extra minutes. Get close-up, stand farther away, move to the side and view it at an angle, etc. Look at how the colors work together. Consider how it’s balanced, if there’s repetition in the piece, what kinds of highlights/shadows there are, what the focal point is, etc. Think of it as a meal - don’t take one bite and think you’ve had the full lobster experience at Mac’s. Spend some time savoring it, and you’ll come out feeling refreshed and renewed, and with art, you won’t even have buttery fingers. (Usually.)
While you’re getting into the artsy swing of things, support local artists! Why not help out your artist neighbors - look for their work locally at places like McPherson Local, The News Arts & Antiques, Brewed Awakenings Cafe, or Carrigan Cafe, and give friends and family the gift of art! (Plus, with all of your new-found art-speaking skills, you’ll be able to talk to them about why you chose a specific piece just for them!) The huge Craft Show at the Middle School in November is another great place to find original, locally made arts & crafts.
If you’re not sure if the arts are for you, do a little research! What’s Google for if not to make us seem smarter than we actually are? Make it a goal once or twice a week to learn five new things about art or dance or theater. Go to the library and look up Charles Dickens and find out what Oliver Twist is all about; check out some books on Jackson Pollock and see how in the world he was able to be successful doing what your bee-riddled neighbor did on accident. Or head to YouTube! It’s not just cute kittens and puppies, there are art appreciation videos, dance instruction, music instruction, painting instruction, and so much more.
And then? Take a chance! Try a dance class at Come Dancing, Dance Steps Studio, or Dance Alliance. Learn how to do glass fusing or paint a watercolor picture or stop into the Art Club at Salt Valley Arts. Catch a show put on by Saline Area Players, Varsity Blues, the Saline High School Theater Department, or enjoy music performances by the Saline bands, choirs, and orchestras or the Saline Fiddlers.
There are so many ways a Salinian can become skilled in the art of speaking about the arts (stay tuned here for more opportunities, and know that this is not a complete list), so go, try out a few of these techniques, and be prepared to amaze your friends and become a true connoisseur of the arts.