Posted on: May 20th, 2016
"Art washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday life"- Pablo Picasso
I first saw this quote at the Art Gallery on High as I waited in the wings to perform with The GrooveYard. Every now and again, I catch a glimpse of this quote and it brings me back to the moments before I took the stage for the first time to sing jazz. Since then, I've been the Resident Artist at Proximity Cafe, giving weekly performances to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. This is probably the thing I love most about music. The ability one has to bring people together from all walks of life through sound. When I hear a song that brings me back to a precious memory, the nostalgia sets in and all of a sudden I am transported back in time with a soundtrack to my own life. Like watching a movie, the rise and fall in the notes and chord progressions stir specific emotions as my thoughts take me back into my past.
It is spaces like this that I will miss. Community is forged in the crucible of adversity when we begin to see another as we see ourselves. Each time a customer walked through our doors, they left as family. No matter their station in life, we acknowledged one another's existence here. Even though my role as Resident Artist ends here, my role as a member of the community, as an artist, does not. When I open my mouth to sing, I recognize the impact I can have on the listener for good of for ill. As an artist, I feel this is fundamentally important. If what I present as an artist does not help another person to stop and think, reevaluate their lives and their world view, I am not up to the task. The beauty of the arts is just that. It does wash away our pessimism and criticism of the world around us and helps us take our place in making a difference. I hope to teach my son the value of hard work, respect and commitment but more importantly the value of another other than himself. Walking around downtown yesterday reminded me of that. There is so much beauty right here in our town if we would take the time to notice. Every day people are working to build a better community, whether it is strengthening our community through the gardens providing nourishing homegrown produce for our health, the Pottstown Farm showcasing the amazing culinary and creative prowess of our neighbors or music studios grooming the Louis Armstrongs and Ella Fitzgeralds of tomorrow one lesson at a time.
There is great wealth in our town as we begin to acknowledge one another. Despite the fact that Proximity Cafe is closing, my hope is that the spirit of what we do here will continue. I know there are many individuals, groups and businesses that came before our own with the same goal in mind. Despite the challenges and the seeming failures, I believe that each step brings us one step closer to the close knit, caring supportive community we all desire. Each person plays a role in the community whether they are building it or tearing it down. We don't have to agree on everything. But we can all agree to acknowledge and respect another despite our differences. There is no Switzerland when it comes to building community, even apathy is for ill, it is never neutral. The good that each of us can do makes a difference when we don't do it. Mother Teresa once said, “The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
As we look forward to summer and being outdoors and buy local, I know as an artist I am looking for ways to help sweep the dust of everyday life from the souls of those who hear my voice whether in song, word or deed. Let us look at one another squarely in the eyes and hear our heart say, possibly for the first time, "I see you".
© 2017 Anakai Ney - Singer Songwriter.