The canvas of life

“Creativity takes courage,” wrote the famous 20th century French painter, Henri Matisse. I recently witnessed an exhibition of creativity and marveled at the courage of art students at Davis & Elkins.

I preface these comments with a confession. We all have talents; however, artistic talent is not my forte. I think my finger-painting from kindergarten was the zenith of my artistic expression! My seventh grade art teacher tried hard, but finally said to me one day, “Just do your best.” I am at peace with the notion that an art exhibition of my own is not in my future, but that does not mean I do not have a profound appreciation for those that have talent and work tirelessly to express it.

Creative arts are alive and well on the campus of D&E. In fine arts alone, about 25 percent of our students engage in the arts, from art majors to those simply taking a class as an elective. Recently, the Randolph County Community Arts Center hosted an exhibition of student art from the College. As I admired the works, I also had the opportunity to speak with several of the artists. I left that event feeling pride for the College community that I now call home, as well as the community of Elkins that places value on the arts as an essential component of the quality of life within a community.

The paintings and photographs that ringed the walls of the Arts Center, along with the sculptures displayed, represented a wide range of techniques and subject matter. Each told its own story and elicited varying emotions. Best of all, each of the young artists in attendance explained their work, process and motivation.

As I reflect on this interaction, I am struck by the parallels of the creative works of these students and the transformative experience they are undergoing during their years as a student at D&E. Under the caring tutelage of the art faculty, these budding artists are maturing and evolving in their understanding and expression. Likewise, all of our students, whether art majors, nursing students, or business majors have their skills sharpened, assumptions questioned and horizons expanded. The part of their journey spent at D&E will transform the “canvas” that is their life in profound and meaningful ways. The exhibition of art was in many ways a creative expression of the maturation occurring across this campus as young men and women are prepared for a life of creativity and courage.

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see,” wrote 19th century French Impressionist, Edgar Degas. I am indebted to the young artists of Davis & Elkins for helping me to see more and more, and experience the complexities and beauty of expression on canvas and other mediums. Our life journeys are informed and enhanced as we see that which we did not see before, or as we contemplate that which we had not previously considered. I am grateful for this gift.

The journey continues. …

Chris A. Wood is president at Davis & Elkins College.