If you were to look at the header portion of any of my school notebooks, regardless of subject or year in school, you would find an amalgamation of monochromatic doodles done with my favorite pen.
Art has always been an outlet for me in a variety of forms. Whether it be sketching, singing along far too loudly in the car or creative writing, art has served as something that can make change and impact individuals on numerous levels.
Coming to college, entirely unaware of how I would best embrace this passion and outlet as someone planning to study government, I mentioned this anxiety to my academic counselor who pointed me toward what I believe is one of the most impactful organizations this campus supports. The Prison Creative Arts Project, housed in the University’s LSA Residential College, makes the restorative aspect of art accessible to those in prison facilities throughout the state of Michigan. It is via this organization and the complimentary academic course that this notion of art as restorative, as an outlet and as something to create small and large scale change, is fostered.
The power of art is something that has become apparent to those involved with the organization, also known as PCAP. LSA sophomore Zoey Horowitz, creative writing facilitator, explained that the organization has given her a greater understanding of how engaging in artistic and creative processes can be personally rewarding. She stated that, through PCAP, she has been able to hone her own appreciations of creative expression while also introducing and facilitating that mechanism to others.
Through my own participation in this program in the past, I have seen the unique and singular ability of art as something that can bring people of differing experiences and from entirely separate spaces together. This is due to the shared experience many forms of art can provide. Working with art in this capacity has only reinforced my appreciation and understanding of all art forms — both within popular culture and in an individual capacity. It was working with this organization that gave me a personal understanding that art can be something lighthearted while simultaneously tapping into something more profound. The sheer joy that the shared experience of singing a song or discussing the first time one heard something on the radio brought a sense of lightness and understanding that truly took me aback.
There is something unique about art. While brainstorming, I truly do not believe there is something else akin to the depth of individual and collective experience that art can create. We can sometimes take this experience for granted, like when we casually come together and converse about a shared memory about a movie or that one Taylor Swift song that was popular in middle school. Art is something that can bind us together in a way that most other mediums cannot.
In an age where funding for art programs is routinely cut, and creative expression sometimes takes a backseat to other programs, let us challenge this notion of art as something to be rid of or stripped from a budget. Let us champion as a community, as students and as people the importance of what art can be and do for each and every one of us. It is organizations like PCAP that recognize and validate the importance of the transformative effects both individual and collective experiences engaging with art can provide.
Seeing the beauty of creative expression in a variety of forms and watching how memories of songs can bring people together and experience emotions connected to written word or movies exhibits the power art has to shape individual dynamics and transform individual and group experiences. Art has the unique ability to offer an outlet for so many — as it has for me. Let us celebrate those bringing creative or expressive opportunities to others, as it can be just one of many methods for growth, understanding and change. Having the ability to express oneself in a society clouded with divisive rhetoric and channeling those energies in a positive or individually beneficial way is of the utmost importance. Art does not have to be what one would traditionally define it as. It can be something as simple as humming along to something or doodling at the top of a page. Whatever one’s definition may be, let us make art accessible, because it, in its variety of forms and means, has the power to bring change.
Samantha Szuhaj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.