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The arts, serving the public good

August 14, 2014

More than 500 people turned out to see The Weather Project performance on Saturday evening at the Yulan ball field. In doing so, each one of these audience members cast a vote (witting or not) in support of the arts in the Upper Delaware River region. In addition, 73 area residents acted, sang, danced or otherwise performed, including many adults and children who had never participated in a play before. Among the spectators, too, were those who had never come out to see a work produced by the NACL Theatre, confirming that the arts can draw new audiences and facilitate the development of community at its best.

The play was about three school students and their science project presentation, which is interrupted by a great storm that blows them to a strange dream world (reminiscent of Dorothy’s trip to Oz) peopled by solar-advocating munchkins (played by local children), cloud collectors (who stirred up mischief in the heavens), a trio of dastardly fossil-fuel villains (whom the crowd booed with delight), an angry and distressed mermaid (who counted animal species as they become extinct with every ringing of a bell), ominous stilt-walking characters (who hovered threateningly over the play’s other characters), and a scientist (played by a real NASA scientist) who carried the message to all humanity to live more simply without so much stuff and to “use less.” Naturally there were other messages, too.

Some of the impending consequences of climate change were tough to hear, but the medium in which they were presented made the information more accessible and strangely more palatable because everyone present was having so much fun. And there was hope expressed in the play, with a flock of children, dressed in all white, waving white paper “doves” of peace and hope.

The Weather Project Community Play, which under the wing of the NACL’s creative director Tannis Kowalchuk, was just one evening out of countless evenings year-round when the region’s residents and visitors alike can partake of the fine talents of the diverse community of local artists who enrich our society—from painters and sculptors to writers and poets, from composers and musicians to filmmakers and playwrights and more.

Following on the unquestionable success of The Weather Project, the role of the arts in our local communities is worth contemplating. What do the arts contribute to life in the Upper Delaware River Valley, and how do the arts enrich us all?