I was one of the lucky ones. I grew up with the arts. My parents enrolled me in preschool at the art museum at four and took me to the symphony before I was big enough to weigh down the seat. Later, they drove me to piano lessons and dance classes and orchestra and summer art programs. On rare occasions, they treated me to live theater.
In my childhood memory bank, the concerts and plays and museum visits still stand out. But in reality, they happened less frequently than birthdays. And they came with a lot of rules: Dress better than you’d dress for church. Act better than you’d act in church. Drink only one Shirley Temple at intermission… and only if it’s offered. Don’t clap between movements. Stay behind the velvet ropes. Don’t touch the artwork.
As a kid, I sensed that these rules were in play for older people, too, judging from appearances. People who went to concerts wore uncomfortable shoes and looked as though they had headaches. How in the world could they have been enjoying themselves? The people on stage were no better. They may as well have been grade school principals, the way they shut everyone up.
Sure, some of this may have been my eight-year-old way of looking at the world. But later in life, I still sensed a chasm between artist and audience. Unable to explain it, I chocked it up to greatness. Performers were higher, better. The best they could hope for was that others would admire their art, even if they never truly connected with it. It was just too overwhelming for ordinary people to share space with great talent.
Unless, of course, they were in the right space.
The night I took the pictures for my Sheldon illustration, we had just been to a concert at Powell Hall and were strolling down Washington Avenue, looking for our car. I remember saying to my husband that The Sheldon could probably fit inside of Powell! I googled it and discovered I was right. Powell Hall could hold three and a half Sheldons! And, largely because of that, Powell would never be able to offer the intimacy that The Sheldon could.
As it happens, size does matter. Especially to those who feel art is untouchable, or to those who feel great distance from performers, or to those who can barely tolerate being part of an audience. If “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” as the saying goes, the beholder can’t be too hung up on protocol.
Whether or not The Sheldon takes this into account when they line up their programs, I have no idea. But their offerings seem to suggest that they do. I saw local phenom Erin Bode perform there and felt like I was in her living room. I played trivia there and got the sense I was at a street party. I “golfed the galleries” and felt liberated playing in the presence of art.
The Sheldon brings art to ordinary lives. It invites us to forget ourselves and become a true and dynamic part of the artistic experience. This is culture at its most accessible.
Which is why, as I created the artwork for the March 2022 calendar, I had artists and patrons walking toward The Sheldon together. In a perfect world, all of us are part of the picture.
The Sheldon is the March feature in my 2022 A YEAR IN THE CITY calendar. It is also available as a litho print or limited edition archival print. For more information, visit ayearinthecity.com . Then visit The Sheldon!