Art and connection

My readings at Fun A Day Reseda (Photo by Diane Siegel)At Fun A Day Reseda, I gave readings from two of my recent novels: my work-in-progress Snow in Los Angeles and my 2016 Fun A Day project, The Remainders. I also used the opportunity to talk about art, and the most important thing it offers, connection.

Connection is why I got started in writing. As a student at Reseda High School, I was going through typical teenage stuff and started a personal journal to deal with it. When my English teacher, Darlene Loiler, asked to see a sample of our writing, I turned in my journal.

This is when I first felt connection through writing.

In addition to spelling and grammar corrections, Mrs. Loiler gave me advice on my problems and encouragement to keep writing. I joined the school’s creative writing magazine Buji and the newspaper, the Regent Review. I started making connections throughout the school. “Hey, Matthew, I enjoyed what you wrote…Your article made me think.” Those connections enabled me to find a place at school. Connection is why I continue writing today.

I believe connection is more important now than ever.

We’re told we live in a “post-fact world.” We hear about “fake news” and “gaslighting” while bots spread disinformation through social media. When we can’t trust what we see and hear, art can show us truths we don’t get through cable news.

Fun A Day Reseda provided an excellent example. Cleveland Charter High School did an art installation called Classroom of Compassion: A Parkland Tribute. Each piece of the installation tells the story about the people who were murdered a year ago. They did extensive research and showed each person’s interests and achievements. They were no longer statistics or political talking points. They were people whose promising and accomplished lives were stolen far too soon.

Memorial art installation for Stoneman Douglas students and teachers

This is the type of connection we need. Art makes us feel. When we feel, we care. And when we care, we want to do something.

Fun A Day Reseda reminds us of the importance of art in building connection. Art moves us to compassion, stirs us to action, and encourages us to join together to build better communities.