I noticed there were three faces present at the celebration of Art Compass.
There were more than three people, of course, but mostly three faces.
The first face was of the artists – their looks of expectation, of simple joy, of expectation, the thrill of meeting new friends and seeing more familar faces – and the pride in seeing their work exhibited in a commercial setting. If you’ve ever had your creative work exhibited in public, it’s a great thrill. However, behind their cheery faces were looks of worry and sadness – not knowing exactly what was going to happen, hoping perhaps against hope while knowing all the while for artists like them good things only happen on this scale very occasionally. Perhaps once in a lifetime. And for some, not lucky enough to have been involved, never. And you try not to cry, but you do anyway.
The second face was of the parents, families, and friends of the artists – their faces looking time-worn, happy for their artists, glad of the moment, but their insides gnawing on the bone of inevitability. Heard it all before. Sidelined again. No real prospects. No beam of light in their lives, no relief, no drop of water for the flower in the desert. But you have to bloom anyway, you put on your brave face, and you pretend that this is good, and its all going to work out, and, if it doesn’t, well it didn’t mean anything anyway. It’s just another page to turn. It doesn’t matter that for the first time your artist has actually started to show some potential, some life, some way of communicating on a platform that can be understood, and if not understood, then at least seen. And you try not to cry, but you do anyway.
The third face was that of the studio director and the assistants – their faces looking time-worn, happy for their artists, glad of the moment, but their insides frustrated on the splinters of lost opportunity, the bone long gone. Jobs lost. Burnt out, fought out, lost out. Good things don’t happen around here any more. And you try not to cry, but you do anyway. Despite that, clinging feebly to the slightest glimmer of hope – because that is the esence of what art is – knowing full well that in the city that decides the decision was made.
Not by someone who knows the artists, their work, their potential, or their value; but rather by a faceless stream of decisions that know the cost of everything even if those decisions determine that some members of our society are valueless. That no opportunity shall be made for them, unless that opportunity is directly attributable for the movement of these people into fulltime employment.
Just what every good artist needs: a job.
I also noticed there were some faces absent at the celebration.
There seemed to be a shortage of politician faces. A shortage of the bureaucrat faces who make decisions to stifle the life and futures of sections in the community because they – the people concerned – don’t fit the template. The socio. The profile. Well, they wouldn’t, because they come from a cross-section of our community. They’re not exactly fashionable. Not part of the beautiful people. They don’t do G&Ts at ChiChi’s. There may not be enough for a lobby group, and even if there was, they can only speak through their art. But if we accept the six degrees of separation theory, there’s an artist just like the ones whose faces, minds, bodies, and spirits engaged with Art Compass, within a short reach of each of us.
And maybe they draw, paint, sculpt, print, illustrate, manipulate clay or images in photoshop – or maybe all of these things, and it is the way they can best articulate their thoughts, dreams, and aspirations to the world. They might shout, scream, exault their existance through their art. But one thing is for sure. They don’t do it under loving wing of Art Compass. They will not be heard in the context of their peers. Because faces without faces believe the artists are of no value. Even worse, the artists are worthless.
And so, Art Compass is closed. And we are all poorer for its closure. And you try not to cry, but you do anyway.