The Power to Change the World
Words: William Cameron
Issue 1, 2023
ONE of the great challenges we have in the world today is overcoming our lack of empathy, which is the ability to see and feel the problems of others. While social media seems to connect us, we actually feel more isolated and unconnected than ever. We do not feel strongly that we are a part of a world community, part of a larger we. Giving people unlimited access to data most often leaves them feeling overwhelmed, disconnected, and unable to have an effect on the world around them. This is where art can make a difference. Art does not show people what to do; however, engaging with a good work of art can connect you to your senses, body, and mind. It can make the world felt. And this may spur thinking, engagement, and action.
Being the publisher of Blank Canvas 38, I have met and talked with so many people in the art world. On one day I may be interviewing the designer of the Denver Art Museum, Daniel Libeskind, and on another day, I may be discussing the construction of an artwork or exhibition with a local artist or gallery owner. Working with these artists has brought me into contact with a wealth of outlooks on the world and has introduced me to a vast range of differing perceptions, ideas, and knowledge. Being able to take part in these exchanges has affected the publications that I produce, driving me to create content that I hope touches people everywhere.
Most of us know the feeling of being moved by a work of art, whether it is a song, a play, a poem, a novel, a sculpture, a painting, or even a publication. When we are touched, we are moved, transported to a new place that is rooted strongly in a physical experience within our bodies. We become aware of a feeling that may be familiar to us but that we did not actively focus on before. This transformative experience is what art is constantly seeking.
I believe that one of the major responsibilities of artists is to help people not only get to know and understand something with their minds but also to feel it emotionally and physically. By doing this, art can help mitigate the numbing effect created by the glut of information we are faced with today and motivate people to turn thinking into doing.
Engaging with art is not simply a solitary event. The arts & culture world represents one of the few areas in our society where people can come together to share an experience, even if they see the world in radically different ways. The important thing is not that we agree about the experience that we share, but that we consider it worthwhile to share in the first place. In art and other forms of cultural expression, disagreement is accepted and embraced as an essential ingredient in the process. In this sense, the community created by arts & culture is, potentially, a great source of inspiration for politicians and activists who work to transcend the polarizing populism and stigmatization of other people, positions, and worldviews that are, sadly, so endemic in public discourse today.
Art also encourages us to cherish intuition, uncertainty, and creativity, and to search constantly for new ideas. Artists aim to break rules and find unorthodox ways of approaching contemporary issues. I am convinced that by bringing us together to share and discuss, a work of art can make us more tolerant of difference and of one another. The encounters we share over art can help us identify with one another, expand our notions of we, and show us that individual engagement in the world has actual consequences. This is why I hope that in the future art will be invited to shoulder a larger role in education and the discussions of social, political, and ecological issues, even more than it is currently, and that artists will be included when leaders at all levels consider solutions to the challenges that face us in the world today.
Blank Canvas 38’s purpose is to reveal the wealth of art we have right at our doorstep. I hope that uncovering and exposing the artistic culture in Colorado will inspire people to reengage, to remove their faces from their screens and devices, and to acquire that felt feeling by coming together as one community.