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The Artist’s Purpose

This post introduces the journal.
Image montage: (Poet Mary Oliver, anonymous pianist, visual artist Georgia O'Keeffe
(left to right) Poet Mary Oliver (Molly Malone Cook), anonymous pianist (Mike Kemp), visual artist Georgia O'Keeffe (Alfred Stieglitz)
Art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. It is one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words. It is a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.
 — Dr. Karl Paulnack

In late autumn of 2021, I decided to develop an online, arts-oriented journal to highlight positive-spirited “alternative views” that I and many other artists have offered to the world as antidotes to the negativity and shallow commercialism that surround our daily lives. The quote above that introduces this first journal post summarizes what artists do and why, and provides a preview of what you might discover, over time, as a subscriber.

The quote is an excerpt from an extraordinary speech that Dr. Karl Paulnack, formerly the Director of the Music Program at Boston Conservatory, gave to the parents of incoming students in 2004, alerting them to what might lie ahead in the lives of their talented children.

Although Dr. Paulnack’s comments focus on music as the creative subject of his speech, any of the other arts (visual and literary arts as well as dance) can easily be interchanged with the word “music.” As part of my journal’s ongoing written commentary, I’ll be including examples of how these complementary artistic perspectives, drawn from diverse backgrounds and experiences, can enrich and enliven our own lives and the lives of others.

At various times during the preparation of this journal’s content, I’ve questioned what the real value might be in taking time to focus on art in the face of so much inequity, political upheaval, conflict, and sorrow in the world. For me, the answer lies in trying to achieve a state of balance that will allow me to address my civic responsibilities as a world citizen, (voting, community service, etc.) while still preserving—through artistic expression—my connection to the deeper, restorative layers of the human psyche that keep my spirit alive. In his speech, Karl Paulnack asked himself the same question, and arrived at a similar solution. Whenever I feel disheartened in my role as an artist, his words help restore my soul.

With his written permission I'm offering the full transcription of Karl Paulnack’s master storytelling in the link below, drawn from his own background and personal experience as both a musician and an educator. Although it is long by today’s standard of reducing communication to brief sound bites interspersed with advertising, it is worth every moment of your attention.

So, make yourself a nice cup of tea, sit down, and get ready to embark on a deep-diving investigation that encourages us to “understand things with our hearts—when we can’t with our minds.”

A Contemplation on Music, by Dr. Karl Paulnack

Sandra first name signature

Sandra Dean, Visual Artist
‌Tieton, Washington USA