October is National Arts and Humanities Month. The arts and humanities are vital to human experience: We don’t just survive — we share feelings and ideas, build upon previous experiences, make observations, invent, explore and create possibilities that become reality.
Our cultural evolution is fueled by our creativity and founded on the vast experience and experimentation of our ancestors. They expressed themselves in words, pictures, stories, images, structures, sounds and movement, and their creations became foundations upon which we can build our own creative legacies. Seeing their images, hearing their music, and reading their stories can touch our souls and propel us forward in life.
This process has continued since the beginning of time. Our imagination and creativity have taken us to the stars and helped us identify structures at the cellular level. The human race has had such diverse experiences, yet almost every civilization has had a desire to tell its story. This is what the arts and humanities are about.
You may not be drawn to every form of creative expression or cultural story. However, as you introduce yourself to various art forms, wondering how and why the creators expressed themselves in this particular way, or learning about the lifestyles of various cultures, your appreciation for their struggle may bring clarity or solace to your own. You may find a kindred spirit in history, a play that brings you to tears or a new form of music that overwhelms you. You won’t know unless you try.
So, let’s celebrate! During the month of October, expand your horizons by trying something new. If you don’t know where to start, try Googling it (NowPlayingUtah.com is a great place to begin). Try a museum, a concert, a play or a musical.
If you like the aerial majesty of a slam-dunk, try a tour jeté at the ballet. If you like the current Top 40, try the Top 40 from the 1700s at the symphony. If you like audio books, why not hear a story live at a storytelling festival?
Expanding your creative experiences will open your awareness and give you a better sense of self. If that isn’t encouragement enough, join the rest of your fellow Utahns who have found that including the arts and humanities in their activities can be exciting, funny, heartwarming, exhilarating, amazing, emotional and myriad other marvelous, life-fulfilling moments. If you’re preserving your cultural moments on social media, you can use the hashtag #artshumanitiesUT.
According to studies by the National Endowment for the Arts, Utah is number one in the nation for attendance at live music, theater and dance performances, number two in the nation for attendance at art exhibitions, and number four in the nation for arts and cultural employment growth. Utah is culturally rich statewide, with a full-time symphony, ballet and opera. Along with these incredible assets are opportunities to participate and patronize our community’s creative and cultural characteristics in nearly every city and town.
I am fortunate to be the executive director of CenterPoint Legacy Theatre in Centerville. We are only one of thousands of organizations throughout Utah who share their talents and community programs year-round. Currently, I am also serving as the chair of the Utah Arts Council Board for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. During my service on the board, I have been made aware of how blessed we are to have so many individuals, groups, and organizations focused on our rich cultural heritage.
So, try a new cultural experience in October. Maybe it will start a new passion in you.
Jansen Davis is the executive director for CenterPoint Legacy Theatre and currently serves as the board chair of the Utah Arts Council for the Utah Division of Arts and Museums. He lives in Farmington.