By Lynn Post, LNH 2016
- Challenges and opportunities the arts, humanities, and media face today
- The role of the arts and humanities in our lives and in New Hampshire
- Our use of media (including social media) and its effects
- How we can engage with media and cultural organizations in new ways
We considered these topics as we heard from writers, musicians, filmmakers, and others who give their professional lives to the arts.
The Arts Provide a Safe Space
A recurring theme was how the arts can provide a safe space in which to relate to others different than oneself. Under the guidance of Susan Hatem, Associate Director of New Hampshire Humanities, we discussed the poem Mending Wall, by Robert Frost. In Mending Wall, the narrator is amused at why he and his neighbor bother to mend their stone wall every spring.
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
and eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
The neighbor only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors,' without much thought to why. This allowed a civil discussion about immigration, cultural differences, and even a reference to Donald Trump’s famous wall. The poetry discussion was a central, shared experience that provided a safe place to discuss and accept potential differences.
Our esteemed classmate, Lenny (“Did I mention I won a Grammy?”) Matczynski, brought us the Apple Hill String Quartet, the high-point of the day. Playing in a quartet differs greatly from playing in an orchestra in that there is no conductor leading the musicians. Rather, it’s about the skills of watching, listening, being sensitive, being flexible, and adjusting to your fellow musicians – skills we can all work on in the real world. The Apple Hill String Quartet demonstrated playing with these skills turned off, then with these skills turned on and even the most tone deaf among us appreciated the difference.
I think we were all fascinated to learn about the Apple Hill Playing for Peace program, “an outreach program that focuses on social change and conflict resolution through music.” Apple Hill has traveled throughout the world, leading workshops in which they assign musicians from conflicting communities to play in small ensembles, for example Arabs with Israelis or Irish Catholics with Protestants. Through the use of chamber music skills (listening, watching, sensitivity, etc). participants connect in unexpected ways. Again, the arts provide a safe space in which to relate to others with differences.
Impact of Arts and Media on Social Change
Apple Hill thus illustrated another theme of the day: using the arts and media to effect social change. After a heartwarming introduction by our own Bridget Overson, Dan Habib, Filmmaker and Project Director, UNH, Institute on Disability, spoke to us about using film, video, and social media to change hearts and minds about inclusion and acceptance of children with disabilities. I loved his story about gathering together 20 teens with disabilities who created the I am Norm campaign. It raises awareness about inclusion using the idea that we are all different and we are all “norm.” Dan’s films related to disabilities and inclusion have been screened on public television, in universities, and in film festivals throughout the country. According to Dan, social movements take about 30 years to get to a point where they can’t go backwards (think women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, the environmental movement). With his leadership, inclusion and acceptance of children and adults with disabilities will be the way of the future.
“I’m Betsy Gardella and this is New Hampshire Public Radio”
Betsy Gardella, President and CEO of New Hampshire Public Radio, spoke to us about the rewards and challenges of running a public radio station. NHPR excels because it concentrates on local programming and local news. For a small-market station, NHPR has an extraordinary news operation. They’ve been able to recruit superstars such as Laura Knoy and produce quality programs such as the Exchange and Word of Mouth and the State of Democracy series. In parting, Betsy encouraged us all to remember to say New Hampshire Public Radio (or NHPR), not National Public Radio (NPR), and to become sustaining members of the station.
On the evening of our Arts and Media day, Lindsay Hamrick posted on Facebook:
"Today was full of beautiful moments of vulnerability and authenticity which take incredible courage… if we let it, art can pull away all the crap and just let us be us."
Here are links to books and films mentioned during our Arts, Culture and Media day:
Children of the Stone, Sandy Tolan
The Far Field: a Novel of Ceylon and Crawl Space, Edie Meidav (McDowell Colony Fellow)
Including Samuel and Who cares about Kelsey? By Dan Habib