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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

WHAT ART DOES

WHAT ART DOES/THE KENNEDY CENTER HONORS 2009

Writer, composer, actor, director, and producer Mel Brooks; pianist and composer Dave Brubeck; opera singer Grace Bumbry; actor, director, and producer Robert De Niro; and singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen.

I like to watch one awards show each year. This is the one. The one that acknowledges with full national force the significant role that the ARTS play in the life of America. The work of my day was put away. I turned off my phone. For two hours I was transported. Commercial breaks were taken in conversation with my husband about what we had just seen. Each performer honored had a place of significance in my our histories. And tonight their stories were part of my story. Because THAT is what art does. It engages. It draws you in. It’s the train wreck you have to watch and it’s the prolonged note, the beauty of which pulls across the skin of your life like a knife and draws blood. ART. It’s not the neat and the orderly. It is the inspiring and the impacting. It’s immediate. Dangerous. And essential.

As Bruce Springsteen’s music ran its full brush across the palette of the evening, I saw it again. The ART of America stirring the soul. I saw the memories playing on the screens of every person in attendance there in the Kennedy Center. In my home and home’s in the broadcast reach. Springsteen’s lyrical presence, like Whitman, like Sandburg, uniquely calls out that which is undeniably American in our experiences. They were dancing. They were clapping. They could not remain still. They, we, were calling to mind that which once was. That’s what ART does. It calls to mind that which was before and brings it again, alive, in this moment. Not predictable and anticipated but wild and utterly breath stealing.

My husband and I dried our tears. I uttered a holy expletive under my breath and declined bed for a bit. “I have to write.”

I am compelled. Because THAT is what ART DOES.

mary anne radmacher, December 29, 2009 11:15 PM

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