Why art is important.

still from Lauren Tietz's film, "Daven Dowse"
still from Lauren Tietz’s film, “Daven Dowse”

Last week, I went to see a screening for a short film that a friend of mine made. I’ve taken several dance and movement classes from her so I know how reflective, thoughtful, and creative she is. Though I didn’t really know what to expect, I knew it would involve dance and movement and I was sure it would be good.

I invited my friend, Katie, and we arrived a few minutes early. The screening was in a really beautiful gallery space in East Austin. It is an old warehouse/industrial complex that has been divided up into art studios, galleries, shops and a tea house. I like going to places like that—where someone (or a group of someones) has shown vision and follow through to create a space, an experience, for those who visit.

After a sound check and some set up, we were invited in along with the other 30 or so who had come. We sat on the cement floor facing one of the perfectly smooth and perfectly white walls that would serve as the screen. Lauren, the director/my friend, briefly introduced the film. Lights went low and we watched a series of 3 solo dance performances, each one in nature, each one with it’s own soundtrack, each one evoking a very different set of responses and emotions in me. Everything about the film was beautifully done. The movement, the sound, the light, the filming, the edits— all of those details came together so skillfully that I wasn’t even aware of these technical aspects of the film. I could be with the essence of the piece and my own experience of it, unencumbered.

When the lights went on, Lauren invited the audience to stay for a Q&A. She talked about the title, gave thanks to those who have helped and been involved in the project, she acknowledged the City of Austin for helping to fund the endeavor. She handled herself with such poise, eloquence and professionalism while still being very much herself. Even though I was one of many in the room, it was like having a quiet personal conversation with her.   I was so moved and so impressed both by her creative vision and her ability to direct dancers, secure funding, manage the technical components, work with a musician for the score, and pull off a screening event that was really wonderful.

Art is so important. It’s a whole other way of using the mind and communicating and experiencing our human selves. It can engage and reach us in ways important and particular ways, ways that might not be found by other means. And there are people out there in the world who are really good at it. Maybe they were even born to do it. It’s their svadharma to share their unique perspective and their voice so that when we experience it, we can have a way of touching into something inside of ourselves. And these artists aren’t only good at making art, but at so many of the other things that it takes to have an artistic career.

Sometimes I mourn for artists in our culture because it is so very difficult to pursue a creative profession. Sure, if you really want it and you had some exposure to the arts, and you are willing to sacrifice and follow the dream, and your have the resources or a day job, and you also have the skills required to access grants and special funding sources, then you can do it. But wouldn’t it be great if my kids could go to school and instead of an emphasis purely on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), there would be equal opportunity and value given to the skills needed to develop as an artist? And just as importantly, when they finished with school, these artists could follow an art-making career path that was just as valued and just as legit as the other ones out there?

I’m inspired and grateful to Lauren and the many other artists, both present day and from the past, in my family and friend circles and beyond, who have touched me in a way that lets me remember and polish these facets of my human experience. Because of artists and the art they create, my life and my world is better.


Interested in following Lauren Teitz’s work?

Daven Dowse is a sponsored project under Women & Their Work, funded in part by the city of Austin. Please look for the second phase of the project to be shown in 2016.
(from press release) Daven Dowse is a new short film: a series of several dance portraits, phase one of Body, Light, Motion, a project funded in part by the city of Austin.
Fascinated by the body as site and archive of personal and cultural lineage, the movement research was influenced  by several modes of inquiry (davening, dissolving, slowing down, accelerating, molting, trembling), in order to come back to the body’s innate intelligence. Through such an excavation process we hope to reveal an idiosyncratic and intuitive language unique to each dancer – one that precedes the verbal. This unearthing, is not superimposed but instead gathered from memories and desires present in each of the dancers. Giving powerful voice to each of the performers, in this way, the process honors the dancers unique approach as well as personal and cultural histories.


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