The Things We Desire

February 17th, 2011

Unveiling the statue of Max Ehrman. Sculptor Bill Wolfe and Art Spaces Director Mary Kramer

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember
what peace there may be in silence.

-Max Ehrman 1927

In Terre Haute, Indiana, on a street corner known as the Crossroads of America, there is a clever bronze statue of the poet Max Ehrman. Dressed in the formality of the early 20th century, he is seated on a bronze bench observing his hometown.

Out of the corner of your eye, Max is somewhat startling.  The statue is a perfect representation. The dark bronze seems alive, as if a breathing human is actually sitting there.  Surrounding him is a tiny, landscaped park planted with grasses, shrubs and trees. Max sits there placidly, rather, contemplatively, amid the noise and haste of a contemporary, bustling Terre Haute. The famous phrases of his poem Desiderata are cast in bronze, embedded in a pattern along a meandering brick sidewalk.

It’s quite an experience to walk through the space. As I stepped through the park, reading each bronze plaque, I felt liberated. Lighter. At peace. The arts can do that for you. Max gave me permission to be me, through his artfully honed words.

Phrases from the Desiderata embedded in the brick walk.

The installation is brilliant on several levels, beyond the obvious artistic success:
• It’s fun.
• It combines the written and the visual arts.
• It brings the arts into the daily lives of the people of Terre Haute.
• Economically, the project supported an artist, and the many people who were paid to participate in the process.
• Art = Jobs.
• The sculpture will continue to  generate revenue as tourists and locals come to admire it. They’ll shop in nearby stores, and dine at the many restaurants in the area.

• Making it happen brought the community together. Many citizens and organizations volunteered their labor and services (and/or funding!) to  honor the arts and their hometown poet. The statue was placed by Art Spaces Inc., Terre Haute’s public arts organization directed by artist Mary Kramer. They have placed many diverse and interesting sculptures throughout the city of Terre Haute.

On more personal note, high on my list of desiderata, or things we desire, is immersion in the creative process.

I desire Art.

Max Ehrman speaks of the peace to be found in silence.

Silence isn’t always essential for me.
Sometimes my creative process needs silence, sometimes noise, but always solitude. Sometimes the music is blasting in my studio and I’m rocking with it. Sometimes I’ll suddenly realize there’s been no music for hours. Sometimes Gregorian chants fill my studio with sonorous, meditative harmony, which helps me focus. But whether there is lots of sound or none, solitude is essential for my creative process.

Max Ehrman understood that.

What is essential for your creative process?

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