My new year’s resolution for 2015 had been to attend as many cultural events as possible; my evenings and weekends would be filled with going to exhibitions, concerts and plays. After reading the article “What we learned from the arts in 2015” published in the The Irish Times Weekend Review a couple of weeks ago, I realised how I had utterly failed to keep up with my resolutions. The various critics’ playlist for 2015 showed that I had missed out on most of the events and on top of that, Fintan O’Toole’s opening lines sounded like a stark reprimand that underlined in red biro all that I didn’t do.
He wrote, “I’m not sure we learn anything from the arts – except that we need them more than ever. They are a way of knowing unlike all the others, a knowing that doesn’t banish all the great unknowns, a light that respects the surrounding darkness.” And then he proceeded to list all the wonderful events of the year, and so did Una Mullally and Peter Crawley and Aidan Dunne, and so on and so forth, while I frantically underlined, with red biro, the ones that were still on, that I might be able to attend before the year was out, before it was too late.
How did I manage to miss out so much? The penny dropped when I came to Patrick Freyne’s piece, “What I learned from art this year was that I want to make some of it. I went to singing weekends held in Northumberland by the folk band The Unthanks, listened to my mother-in-law’s beautiful choir and considered the anarchic visual art of my little nephews. It turns out I like group singing and the abstract expressionism of small children. I also like making things. You see, there’s a sad notion out there that nobody should be making art unless they are a child or a bona-fide genius. This learned helplessness is terrible, but we didn’t lick it off the stones. In the 20th century, communally based folk art was replaced with a mass-media model that divided people into artists and spectators.”
That’s it! Here was the answer. I had been too busy making art, by myself and with my groups, in fact I did nothing else for the whole year! As I think back to all the projects, exhibitions and events I have been involved in during 2015 I have to recognise that the learning has been enormous even though it happened within relatively small communities of artists, the ones that don’t make critics’ playlists but that exists nevertheless and that they are healthy and thriving all over the country.
However on Monday last I did rush to IMMA to see the current exhibition “What We Call Love”, forgetting that on Monday museums and galleries are closed and so sheepishly I had to walk back into town. I returned the following day and spent the afternoon going from room to room to enjoy the work of other artists who choose to work in other ways, venues and modes.
The important thing is that art is being made, as well as consumed, and that everyone who wishes to participate in it gets a chance of doing it. So I won’t be making any new year’s resolutions for 2016 and just keep going with the flow.