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Impact: whether you like it or not

This week’s exploration into Chicago’s innovatious artistic and cultural scene took me all over town and all through my soul. 

I attended Arturo Sorio’s one person show at the Greenhouse Theater where I laughed, cried, and learned about mothers.  At Decompression, a coming home arts festival for people who attended Burning Man, I marveled at spectacle and felt connection with people living deliberate lives.  At Urban Village Church’s first service in Andersonville, I was swept into unselfconscious ecstasy and reminded of the power and beauty of grace.

It was a very diverse set of adventures.  However, they all pointed me to a truth that I can no longer deny – art has impact whether we like it or not. 

For the longest time, I have said that art for art’s sake has a place, just not in my world.  I realize now that it doesn’t exist in any world.  The artist may create for the sake of creation.  However, that creation exists in a certain time and a certain place.  It is experienced by someone – even if just the creator at a later time – and has some sort of impact.  So, why not explore what impact it might have during the creation process?

Many people will take my words to the extremes, as people tend to do.  However, I don’t mean that every thing we create must have deep impact.  We produce The Scooty and JoJo Show, after all.  Most people that come into our shows leave with a smile on their face and no deep contemplative thought in their head.  That’s impact.

I remember when I was leaving my career working full time for social justice organizations and preparing to devote myself to producing on a more full-time basis.  It was the fall of 2008.  Everyone was just waking up to the economic collapse, the elections were uncertain, and people were freaked out.  They came into Mary’s Attic to see Carpenters Halloween with heavy hearts, but they left with smiles on their faces and a spring in their step.  During the course of the show, they laughed with strangers and cried with joy.  As I contemplated my change of career, I realized that if I did nothing else but give people a chance to connect with new people and laugh until it hurt, that impact would be sufficient for me. 

So, as we create art, entertainment, and experiences for people, why not ask the question about the kind of impact we might have.  It’s not a question of if we will have impact but in what ways and how much impact we might have.  The great thing is that we can never control that impact.  People will take what they want from the experiences we offer.  However, by being deliberate about the experiences we create we just might open doors for liberation that improve lives in beautiful ways.