WRITING ABOUT HOW ESSENTIAL ART IS to my life is challenging because I can’t imagine my life without it. I can only share how I stumbled on that realization and what it has meant to me.
I’ve never known a time where I wasn’t drawing or creating something. When I was a child, I drew because I found freedom in the act. Drawing provided an escape from the pain of bullying, the sorrow and fear of my parents’ impending divorce, and the shame of poverty. It was a source of pride to be able to imagine a thing and then give it form. I would spend hours drawing and redrawing something, scrutinizing the details until the image felt true. There are no words that can describe the sensation, it was magical. It’s a feeling that vibrates affirmation through your body and deeper.
It left me feeling energized and empowered. The feeling gave me focus, it directed me, and it allowed me to imagine possibilities.
I am an immigrant and multiracial; my mother is Korean and my father is of African and European descent. I only found out about my father’s ethnicity in my mid thirties through DNA testing. We didn’t talk about race in my household, I sensed it made my mother uncomfortable and though a quiet part of me knew I was not like my siblings, I chose to ignore why. Living this way fractured my identity. It felt as if I was broken into several pieces and some of those pieces were miles apart, distant and invisible.
"IT was a source of pride to be able to imagine something and then give it form."
Over the years I was able to bridge the gaps through art. I made work that felt true and I looked at other artists’ work that resonated with me. I didn’t know what I was doing but it felt right. I’m a first-generation college student and eventually decided to continue my studies and earned my Master’s degree. I focused on art because I wanted to better understand why something that has always been a part of my life was so essential. I’m not sure if I understand any better but I don’t question it as much. It just is. What I’ve learned is that I must trust that feeling, follow it, and nurture it.
Art is an aspect of life that must be protected and shared. It’s unquantifiable, perhaps because it is a part of the fabric of who we are. The National Endowment for the Arts is an agency that supports the fundamental necessity of art in everyone’s lives, and the current administration plans to dissolve it. The NEA’s mission is not just to support the few who we identify as talented and deserving of funding. It’s an agency that says we all deserve access to art, and this is why we must resist.