The Power of Art
A professor of applied music, a poet from an inner-city estate in south London, and a social entrepreneur from Sheffield addressed a Greencoat Forum on ‘The Transforming Power of Art’ on 3 November. The diversity of the speakers and the audience was in itself a testament to the power of art to bring together people of many ethnic groups and ages. Many had commented on what an inspiring evening it was.
The event was organised by Renewal Arts, a multidisciplinary, international network bringing together artists and those passionate about the arts who share the conviction that the arts can be a positive and powerful force for changing our personal lives, our environment and the wider world. It was chaired by Elisabeth Tooms, one of the founders.
She went on to give a lightning fast overview of the subject, including many areas where she personally was involved in arts projects – ranging from work with people with dementia, where music might be a person’s only memory, to her work as Artistic Convenor of the Winchester Centre for Arts as Wellbeing. The latter initiative had seen a rabbi and an imam chanting together in Winchester Cathedral, a photo of which featured in her Powerpoint presentation, also presented at lightning speed!
Her final example of the power of art was ‘an Intermezzo for Peace’, where weapons of war had been transformed into musical instruments; a gun into a flute, for example.
‘Art,’ she said, could turn ‘the hurt-ness of humanity into a thing of beauty’.
Jodie also described the creative role that art had played in her own life. Music, dance and playing the violin had helped her through a ‘very dark period’ after coming out of an abusive relationship.
At school he had been identified as being ‘gifted and talented’ in the arts, which had encouraged him. He had then become involved with Intermission Youth Theatre, which targeted young people with low prospects and a high risk of offending. They encouraged Kwame and others to take part in plays based on Shakespeare but expressed in a modern idiom. It was at Intermission’s monthly ‘The Happening’ [informal gatherings] that Kwame had started to compose and read out poems. ‘Poetry has given me an identity,’ he said. ‘I look at art as a fun way to express yourself.’
He had played ‘a character called Macbeth’ in one of the plays. It had helped him relate to people, turning ‘judgement into curiosity’. ‘In that sense, art is transformative, because it helps you to understand people,’ he said. Kwame is performing in the current Intermission Youth Theatre play, Rise & Fall, inspired by Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.