Lynn Spruill: The arts

November 15, 2013 9:58:45 AM



The Starkville Community Theater lost a good and faithful friend this past week. Bob Anderson, a founding father and a fixture at the theater, will leave a void not to be filled. Bob was frequently the voice that would answer the phone, he took reservations, acted as treasurer and committed his time to most any venture or need the theater on Main Street had. He recognized what an impact the arts have on our lives. He cherished the nature of live theater and watched as Starkville embraced his passion making the Starkville Community Theater a nationally recognized award-winning theater company.  


He left us as he was walking in to see a performance of West Side Story at the Memphis Orpheum Theater this past Saturday. We should all be so fortunate at our own time to go. 


Starkville is extremely fortunate to have such a strong group of arts related organizations in the community and on campus. Pick up a newspaper and on any given day you will see multiple opportunities to see and/or be involved in various arts programs around town. The arts are gifts from those who speak to our softer side; they evoke uniquely human sentiments. The arts contribute to what makes us civilized.  


The recent discovery of $1.4 billion worth of masterpieces in an apartment in Munich, Germany, illustrates how art is valued even in times of devastating war. When the worst of our instincts are in play, we are still drawn to the beauty coming from the creative side of our nature. Maybe even more so in those times of trouble do we desire the serenity and the magic art brings to our lives. 


Collectively, we spend billions of public and private dollars on investments that nurture and preserve the arts. Whether they are the collections of sculpture in the Louvre, old masters at the Art Institute of Chicago or the wide range of shows on and off Broadway in New York, they are tourist attractions and more importantly expressions of what we as a people value. Intrinsic benefits to the community in terms of quality of life lead to extrinsic benefits in terms of economic development.  


There is no question that quality of life is a selling point for a community and access to the arts a predominant piece of that puzzle. On the many occasions I have needed to discuss the assets of our city with investors or bond-rating agencies, the arts are always a part of the conversation of why we are such a great place to live and why we are a valuable and stable community in which to invest. 


I was fortunate to have received an early education that included an introduction to most every medium of artistic expression. Living in a college town gives us opportunities that other small communities are not so privileged to have. I can remember my parents taking me to the MSU lecture series and to concerts at the university. I know it took extra effort for them to make sure I was introduced to various sources of entertainment and not just Disney movies most of which I wanted to see multiple times over my father's protests (five times for The Shaggy Dog). 


I have reaped a lifetime of pleasure in appreciating most if not all forms of artistic expression. I still have trouble appreciating a full operatic performance; love some songs, but the entire performance is a bit over the top for me. The arts are like food for the spirit and until you have sampled the buffet of options, you won't know what you enjoy.  


Life shapes art and art influences life in ways that inform and transform. We have changed our opinions about a war based on a photograph taken by a war journalist. We have responded to issues that are brought to light through photography and film. In a conversation with one of the actors from the most recent performance at "Bob's theater" he mentioned he was approached by someone who had been moved by how close to their own life the theme of the musical came. Truth comes from a mirror held up by a stranger. Art does that and so much more.  


Bob will be missed, but the legacy of the theater that he helped make a reality is a gift that gives as long as we are willing to appreciate and support it.