Why art matters

By Katharine A. Cartwright

It’s no secret that the St. George Peninsula is populated by a large number of artists. And, it’s no secret that these artists are as diverse in their forms of expression as they are in number. As one of those artists, I feel the energy in this community to keep the arts alive. This is important because art matters; it is essential to who we are. Beginning with the earliest cave dwellers, humans continually have engaged in aesthetic expression in many forms. Why we need to do this is a question for neuroscientists and psychiatrists. But the results of our self-expression have far reaching effects.

Cultures are built upon the imaginations of artists and the evolutions of historical cultures are revealed through the arts. Art not only provides a window into the past and present, but may provide a path to our future. I find it remarkable that museums around the world are still packed with visitors of all ages who stand, sometimes tearfully and sometimes confused, before paintings, sculptures, photographs and videos to experience an emotional and intellectual moment. And they keep coming back time after time. Our cities and towns budget for public art to be created and displayed. We acquire art for our homes and businesses. Art is not “art for art’s sake.” It has purpose and meaning. This is why art matters, and why I value the St. George community who actively creates and supports it.

This is the first of a regular column in The Dragon that will shine a spotlight on the visual artists in our community and also provide a little insight and intellectual nourishment about the arts. If you are a St. George artist or gallery engaged in the fine arts and would like to be the centerpiece for my column, please contact me at katharine_cartwright@yahoo.com.  Special consideration is given to those who have exhibits or events scheduled near our publication deadlines so that we may encourage others to attend. All forms of visual art will be considered.

Ed. note: St. George resident Katharine Cartwright is a visual artist and signature member of the National Watercolor Society. The Dragon asked her to prepare a regular “arts” column as a means of giving a higher profile to St. George’s lively art scene. We couldn’t think of a better candidate for the job. For Kathy, fine art has been a passion dating from childhood, through high-school studies, study at three universities and pursuit of a professional career. In her 30s she developed an additional interest in the Geosciences that eventually led her to undergraduate and graduate degrees and a faculty position at Skidmore College. But her devotion to her art never wavered. Now retired from Skidmore, Kathy continues to be devoted to her work as a watercolorist, but has also found new passion for promoting the work of other artists. This has led her to team up with the National Watercolor Society in California to sponsor the national Vanguard Award for innovative work in the field, but also to focus very specifically on cultivating the arts locally here in St. George and the midcoast area. In 2012 she proposed that the Jackson Memorial Library begin mounting regular art exhibitions featuring the work of local artists. She curated the first 16 shows, an experience that led her to become better acquainted with St. George’s art community. “The art scene in St. George is very lively,” she says. “We have a diverse group of artists who are independent thinkers, which is one thing I like—a lot of different styles, techniques and ideas. I feel very strongly that every voice that can be heard should be heard.” In her debut column, Kathy writes that “art matters.” Through her column we look forward to discovering its purpose and meaning here in St. George.

PHOTO: Julie Wortman

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