The incomparable feeling I get when completing a journal entry, digital photography album, or portfolio painting inspires me to share it with the world. The intensity of such inspiration makes me realize that the colors and words of this world are what make us who we are and whoever we dream of being. I am moved to inspire others to feel that same satisfaction of original creation, and to bring people together to simply enjoy, discuss, and create art. Creation is the means of turning our imaginations into reality. By tuning into my unique creative process, I have come to better craft a reality fitted to my self-defined dreams and interests. Through any individual’s realized potential, the world can better connect through creative idea exchange and art. Every person on this planet comes equipped with unique talents, perspectives, and interests that reveal crucial insights into the human experience, allowing the world to better understand why we behave or act in certain ways and how we individually think. By discovering and exchanging various talents and interests, communities can form stronger connections by better understanding one another and better collaborating with resources to bring looming ideas to their tangible reality. This process of building stronger communities and higher rates of community involvement will be better defined in the following three stages: discovery, exposure, and collaboration.
Building stronger communities begins with discovering what it is we genuinely love to do and what it is we are naturally good at. We discover more about ourselves by creative expression; whether it be through sports, art classes, exposure to various subject areas, or any experience that tugs at our heartstrings. Another way to discover more about ourselves is to experience an instance that tests our potential and allows us to deviate from our comfort zones. These crucial encounters give us the tools to self-actualize and further reinforce what our true interests and talents happen to be. Following the discovery of who we perceive ourselves to be, keeping in mind that we continue to learn more about ourselves daily, it is important to follow up with and continue pursuing those sprouting passions or interests. The more practice and time exposed and immersed, the more proficient and confident one will become in that specific area. Confidence, determination, and developing a personal creative portfolio are the key components to making the preparing the individual for the next stage of community involvement readiness. But why should anyone even want to be passionate? Why should anyone want to better know and understand themselves? Without contemplating and self-defining who one is or who one wishes to be, an individual may become lost, overwhelmed, and unfortunately apathetic to the overall progress and greater potential of the community altogether. A dormant individual also runs the risk of preventing a community’s overall progress, losing the will to want to live, feeling numb to existence, spreading cynicism and negativity to other members, and even committing acts of violence. If this is what can result from lack of self-actualization, then I see it necessary for positive encouragement and self-expression to be part of any child, adolescent, and adult’s daily life.
In Brian Selznick’s historical fiction book The Invention of Hugo Cabret 2007, twelve year old protagonist Hugo Cabret undergoes a series of experiences that lead to his self-realized purpose and potential. Cabret’s quest of self-discovery involves utilizing his talents in machinery to finish the automaton (machine resembling a human) that Hugo’s father had been working on before his unfortunate death. The newly orphaned Hugo strives to finish this mechanical project in his father’s honor, believing that the machine is his destiny and his life’s purpose. Hugo eventually fixes the mysterious automaton, and his efforts end up inspiring the cynical, retired French filmmaker Georges Méliès to come out of disillusionment and continue pursuing his love for film. Hugo’s self-discovery and pursuit of passion, all while being a starving orphan with limited resources and no one to confide in, led him to many opportunities that allowed for the achievement of realities greater than he could have ever imagined. That same drive and confidence in potential is needed for the next stage in building stronger communities.
The second stage in inspiring greater community involvement is exposure through the sharing of our creations and ideas. Without a voice, and without creative exposure, individuals within the community remain blank, anonymous faces in the crowd; as useless as a cocoon that never reaches its metamorphosis. But what kind of environment will allow people to feel comfortable enough to share their inner thoughts and personal creations? And why is it so important? In order for this next stage to work, communities must cultivate safe and comfortable artistic environments. Systems must stray away from hierarchical and judgmental impersonal conditions and shift to encouraging and open-minded sincere relationships. The importance of putting yourself out there reveals hidden talents and inimitable perspectives. If we do not know our own community, how can we even care about it? In order to maintain a strong community, it is crucial to have people that can stand up for themselves and their community without fear of failure or ridicule. It is important for people to feel comfortable enough to network, dream big, and put their ideas into action. It is important to feel like what we say and who we are matters, because each member of a community is so extraordinary by simply being born into this world. Why would we want to miss out on an opportunity to learn from the unique perspectives any community member has to offer?
International street artist Banksy directed the acclaimed documentary Exit through the Gift Shop, 2010, that tells the invigorating story of a passionately accidental street artist named Mr. Brainwash, more formally known as Thierry Guetta. The documentary tells of Guetta’s unrelenting creative perspective and drive to constantly document the essence of street art, eventually being encouraged to make a street name for himself. By putting himself out there and expanding all of his resources, including endorsement from the famous Banksy himself, Thierry Guetta was able to produce an extravagant art show in less than nine months held at the CBS Studios on Sunset Boulevard. Attracting over thirty thousand guests, and making over one million dollars in profits, Mr. Brainwash was forced to extend his intended two week show into a two month exhibition. Guetta’s example of exposure and sharing his talents with the community shows how creative exposure can bring together thousands of community members to participate, be inspired, and leave with a sense of pride in the artistic talents their community has to offer.
The final stage in building stronger communities is collaboration. Recognizing talents and collaborating on small projects are great for bringing together groups of similar interests. When the smaller groups become better defined and established, networking and commodity exchange can take place. As communities begin to utilize their creative groups and resources, identities begin to form. Cultivating a community environment that encourages and inspires unprecedented engagement of a community involves developing a highly desirable and recognizable identity. Think about the vibes you get when you hear the names of the following cities: New York City, Detroit, Paris, Little Rock, Chicago, and San Antonio. What kind of culture do you associate with them? Which are most appealing and why? The way people interpret their very own city can determine how involved their community members are; whether it be actively voting politically, attending local events, supporting local sports teams, or wanting to settle down there. How well the community collaborates depends on how connected, engaged, and inspired the community is; and this principle goes with any group or organization of people in general.
On February 29, 2011 Lady Gaga released her official Born This Way Foundation movement aimed at empowering youth and inspiring bravery to respond to the ever prevalent acts of bullying in schools across the nation and around the world. When Gaga was asked the question, “Why the Foundation, Why this?”, she responded by saying that it was something bigger than herself that “just fell into her lap.” She continued by saying that with her influential voice as an international pop super-star was never about money or fame, but to make the world a better place. With Oprah as the keynote speaker and Harvard University as the Foundation’s launching site, many distinguished resources were able to come together and use their talents to support a mentality shift that transcends societal norms and represents the power of youth in today’s society. Gaga’s singular example of self-realized potential, global exposure, and highly influential collaboration is building a stronger world community through this youth empowerment movement. Efforts like these bring people together, inspiring members to get involved, and building stronger connections through the promotion of value based ideas, discussions, and initiatives.
As I sat alone looking up at the “surreal dream” collage I posted up over the bricks that line the walls of my dorm room, I thought to myself, “I am an artist. I recognize and sense my individual style. I have dreams and visions. I can create realities. My work can inspire.” These thoughts keep popping up, striking up wild fires of introspection during class, while eating dinner, in the shower, and almost anytime I am reminded of my core values, interests, or beliefs. Inspiration and ambition comes from believing in our potential, not wishing on a shooting star. Every person on this earth is that very artist described above, and it is important to encourage and support each other to exert the potential inside our hearts just waiting to pop like an unlit firework. What makes a community are its members. What makes an outstanding community are passionate, ambitious members that are proud of their identity and potential. It takes one person to stand up and share their life, ideas, and art, it takes a community to collaborate and support each other’s efforts, and it takes the world to make itself a better place to live. Without strong communities, the world remains as helpless as a patch of grass waiting for the rain to bring it out of its browning misery during a drought. We are the answer to the questions and challenges of today’s world, and by bringing together our talents and ideas through creative expression, anything is possible.