The Arts and Joy / by Jeannine Cook

I was listening to the BBC in the car today and heard a piece by the singer-songwriter, Tracy Chapman, talking of her acclaimed song,"Fast Car" and others. What I found interesting were her observations about the creative process being "very mysterious", in that she does not set out to deal with any specific issue. She apparently just sits down "for the joy of it" to create, using her love of music to develop whatever "inspires me". Although everything is autobiographical in some sense, she allows the creative process to evolve and lead her.

I kept thinking about the joy of the creative process, because of course, it resonates with me and every other artist in no matter what field. I could not help reflecting that it is indeed seldom that one hears of someone in business, finance or many other occupations who talks about experiencing "joy" in what he or she does. Perhaps that helps to explain why so many things go wrong!

For an artist, joy is an emotion that is complex, marvellous, fugitive and very precious. It is also highly unpredictable. Allowing time, space, quietness and personal happiness in one's life are all ingredients that feed into the joy of the creative process. Ultimately, for many people, creating is as simple as breathing, and as necessary.

From the perspective of someone whose mission it was to try and introduce people to this joy, awareness of the arts is key. Dana Gioia, former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, said,"the purpose of arts educators is to create a complete human being who can lead a productive life in a free society...." To achieve a greater respect for the arts, he felt that experience was the best path. He evoked sitting in a concert hall and being "moved to the deepest centre of your humanity", going to a museum and being "simply ravished by what you see"...

Yet in order to be moved, ravished, uplifted, each of us has to benefit from fellow human beings who have experienced the joy and inspiration of creativity in some fashion and given us works of art. It is an extraordinary chain of gifts down the generations from time immemorial.