Art Matters: The heart of the matter |

Art Matters: The heart of the matter

Robert J. Schimmel
Special to the Tribune

Do we always need tragedy or an horrific event like 9/11 to make us appreciate art and what it brings to the very heart of the matter? Doesn’t art often speak louder than words or certainly more eloquently when many have no words?

Please don’t misunderstand, I believe human suffering and pain come well ahead of any art, but we are blessed when the arts aid in healing, understanding and forgiveness. Look at the amazing murals in New York City that tell endless stories and express a myriad of emotions about that terrible day. Each image on a vacant wall, a borough’s fire house, or in a city park tells of emotions no one can utter – there are no words for the deep grief or the tragic memories. Our families were robbed, our souls scarred and our fears realized on that lamentable day in September 2001.

No one will forget where he or she was the moment the towers crumbled to rubble and ash. Most do not want to forget, whether it be out of patriotism, simple, anguished loss or a desire to remember a last hug or kiss. We must pray, accept and understand that all of us suffered loss of some kind if we get honest and go deep.

In the midst of that emotion, what is it that touches us most, expresses what we cannot say and does it without confusing words? Art. Why? Simple, you can “read” the art and feel or relive the emotions of a moment. No one can say you’re wrong because there is nothing wrong with personal experience and its truth – it just is, and the doubters be damned. Art does not need to be translated. It is spoken once and heard by all. It goes to the heart of the matter and is truly “worth a thousand words” if not more.

My sincere point and purpose are to passionately illustrate how art makes a difference we often don’t feel or even recognize until an event like 9/11 hits. Two and 3-D art, for example, can capture your attention at 500 yards or five inches and tell you more in a glance than 50 pages of the finest prose on the planet. From sculpture to architecture, murals to painted eggs, dance to gymnastic rhythms, poetry to music to choirs, we must embrace the arts that keep us tuned-in and turned-on to life in all its fascinating developments.

The expressive quality and talents of our artists need to be recognized and encouraged beyond the commercial scenes and not just for what they can contribute to fundraisers. As a community seeking an identity, Lake Tahoe has an abundance of artists and talent waiting to be creative in ways only they can imagine. Public art and the artists’ giving hands and hearts get the presumptive nods and occasional financial grants, but not nearly often enough to make them thrive and able to continue their mission of self-expression and beautification. This mission leads to personal healing, community identity and, ultimately, national recognition.

Should my comments bring concern that this revolves around money, you may be right. Almost every activity or accomplishment has its sustenance there. Please don’t throw the baby out with the bath water, but preferably get a grip on what can make us spiritually strong, emotionally healthy, and visually pleasing as a community. Art will naturally attract just what we want: A sustainable future with heart, a memory, and an appreciation of God’s gifts and talents among us at all times, not just when a deplorable event occurs.

Robert J. Schimmel is a professional artist and teacher who resides in South Lake Tahoe, is host of the weekly “Lake Tahoe Art Scene,” on KTHO radio Thursdays at 5:15 p.m., and can be reached at

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