By Steve Wecker
I have always been intrigued by great art and the artists who create it. One of my favorite inexpensive ways to treat myself is a trip to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. I could spend all day just wandering from gallery to gallery.
Years ago, I fell in love with a series of paintings, “The Voyage of Life” by Thomas Cole. The works hang in four corners of a small gallery in The National Portrait Gallery. In the first, a young child starts the voyage in a boat in calm waters. Subsequent paintings show rockier waters, and the boat is tossed and damaged. The final painting shows a battered boat in sunset, heading to calmer seas, with an old man piloting. To me, the paintings have always been a beautiful telling of the story of life. Though some might interpret the message as trite, the works always spoke to me. I haven’t seen the paintings in years, but as I write this, I can see them clearly. Art that touches your soul is like that.
But lately I find myself fascinated by all kinds of art, not just the stuff hanging in museums. I have started to embrace the visual, the audio and the experiential. As I age and slow down a bit, I find myself drawn more and more to the way all manner of art touches my life.
Recently, I had a chance to travel to Florence to see the great art of the Italian Renaissance, and last fall I experienced the experimental Opus Festival at Symphony Woods. Though a world apart, these two interactions gave me a chance to see just how important art remains in our society.
We are a civilization that makes room for art and artistic expression in so many ways. Architecture, color, graphics, sound, sculpture, lighting and visual images are everywhere and give our lives context.
Here in Howard county, we have the joy of experiencing the arts in so many ways. Public statues, great festivals and venues for performance. All enrich our lives. Toby’s Dinner Theatre, Merriweather Post Pavilion, The African American Gallery of Art, The Soundry, 18th & 21st, the Lakefront, and sculptures on so many public lawns and at the lakefront downtown. Even the People Tree shows us how art is a part of who we are. Art appreciation crosses all cultural and economic boundaries. While the primitive art of many early communities may seem a stark contrast to what is being created by the high-tech computers of today’s design world, both define who we are.
I didn’t always think that art and the encouragement of artistic endeavors was necessary, but as time goes by, I see that our lives, without the arts would feel bland. Artistic expression was a founding principle of James Rouse, who understood that we need to have art in our lives.
Steve Wecker is principle in the Wecker Hospitality Group, which owns several Howard County restaurants, including The Iron Bridge Wine Company and Cured. He adheres to Walt Disney’s principle: “Sometimes it’s fun to do the impossible.”