Everyday we drive the same streets. We stop at the same stop signs and the same signals. We make the same left turns and the same right turns. It’s what we do to attend to the business of our lives. As I thought about this monotony, I recalled a class I had back in college in Buffalo, New York.
One of my professors gave this assignment. The following day, we were to walk for several blocks along a designated city street and see what was there. I was a commuter student who drove that street everyday. I knew there was nothing interesting. Just a lot of old buildings and traffic. I thought about not going. BOR-ing.
But I went and on the walk … the aroma of Italian food drifted from a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. A cornerstone on an old brick building chronicled its year of construction as 1900. There was a dry cleaner, a busy mom and pop grocery, and a neighborhood bar. Bells tolled from a nearby church. Horns blasted. People talked and argued. Dandelions poked their heads out from unlikely places. Intricate hardware decorated old painted doors. And more. Well, well.
What did the prof want us to do? Notice. Observe. Be aware. See. Use the senses. He made his point.
Remembering that class, I decided to do some “noticing” along streets I drive to get into town. Somehow this horse figure had become part of the big blur. It’s located on a corner where I make a left turn everyday.
I’d never bothered to park, get out of the car, and really look. So I did. As I looked and took this picture, I noted the texture, details, and artistry. I felt the power, the strength, the freedom. I wondered, What is it about horses?
As I continued with my drive and picture taking, I had all sorts of horse connections pop into my mind. Films like National Velvet, War Horse, and Seabiscuit. Books like Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Paintings by George Stubbs. Budweiser Clydesdales and carriage rides in a park. Carousel horses. The Pony Express and stagecoaches. Prancing circus horses. Farmers guiding horse-drawn plows. The calvary mounting a charge. Cowboys. Indian ponies. Dressage. Rodeos. Polo games. Wild horses running, their nostrils flaring.
So what is it about these animals? Their strength? Their beauty? Their timelessness? I guess that’s up to the beholder. Whatever it may be, horses continue to inspire authors, artists, and filmmakers. They’re part of our past and our present. They evoke rich emotions. They give us superstitions and sayings like “horse sense.”
No doubt, “Art in Public Places” along an everyday drive is a bonus. It enhances the environment and makes us think. It can turn a bad mood into a good one or ignite the creative spirit. It’s definitely easier to notice. (These pieces were installed by two corporations, one advertising a housing development and the other a hotel.)
However, an everyday trip without public art has just as much potential to ignite our thoughts, our community awareness, and our appreciation. That’s if we give the journey a chance.
Once in a while, take a moment to observe what’s along your path. The people. The animals. The buildings. The trees, plants, and weather. The smells, sounds, and scenery. Don’t forget your thoughts, your feelings. They’re waiting to be noticed, too.
What you see may be pleasing. It may not be pleasing. It could even be disturbing. But after you do take notice, your response might not be as mechanical. Things may not even be as BOR-ing. (Remember that college kid?)
And how much richer you’ll be in your awareness. And … if writing is your passion … what stories can be told? What scenes can your words paint?