from guest blogger, Singer/dancer/choreographer/actress & Augusta resident Niki Haris
I have been involved in so many areas of the art world and feel blessed to have had its presence in my life. I also recognize the urgent need to cultivate a community that supports and nurtures those who know the importance of art - and helps to encourage those who don't.
My dad (Gene Harris), who recorded and played piano starting at 4 years old, lived and died the artist’s way. While he was still in a wheelchair and was in need of a kidney, the audiences would say, "How does he do it?” He said that the pain would go away when he played for the audiences and that he HAD to do it. His art was truly his first love… and that’s coming from me, his last child.
When I think of the African American artists whose shoulders I stand on, I know many of them did not have the comforts that I enjoy. And yet they created while wars raged on, while enslaved, while thought of as "less than" and while hunger turned their bellies. This ferocious call to create lets me know that, in the midst of seemingly insurmountable odds, the hardwiring of the creative will triumph. The romantic in me wants believe that the drive was so strong in them that they would have done their work even without the reward of acknowledgment and profit. In this world of FaceBook "Likes," many of us are so consumed by a need to be “Liked” that the creative process is, at best, groomed for a particular audience and, at worst, completely stifled by a need for perfectionism or a fear of failure. As writer and cultural commentator Seth Godin says, "If you are willing to do something that might not work, you’re closer to being an artist.”
Let us all lean into our inner artist. Let us all be fearless and ferocious in our desire for a creative, loving and supportive community. As the great writer and cultural critic James Baldwin said, "The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.”