Heinen: The power of art

"To all you one-hit wonders out there"
Heinen: The power of art
Courtesy of Flickr

Labor Day evening, I went to pick up some Chinese food for dinner and, as I am wont to do, played music a few decibels too loudly on my way there and back. As I am also wont to do, I played individual songs from a half dozen CDs, having not yet mastered the much more efficient music delivery systems available digitally.

I played “MoneyGrabber” by Fitz and the Tantrums, put it back in its case and played “You Get What You Give” by New Radicals, put it back in its case and played “Call Me” by St. Paul & The Broken Bones, etc. I repeated the process with “The Walk” by Mayer Hawthorne and “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele.

Some of you will have already tumbled to this, but I realized I had ventured into the catalogue of “one-hit wonders,” as they are derisively known, a musical anomaly with a long and dubious  – if, at times, glorious – history. And it got me thinking about the M List – Madison Magazine’s annual innovators list, this year honoring innovation in the arts – in particular, one question: Do you know how hard it is to create a piece of art? I think I do, because I have tried and failed to create art often enough. But I suspect most people don’t. In fact, most people have probably never given it a thought. And I don’t think 99 percent of the artists throughout history have gotten the credit they deserve for offering, for criticism or praise, a song they have written, a painting, a sculpture, a dance or a poem. And to all you one-hit wonders out there, I am in awe of your talent and your courage.

Now, before I leave all you Adele fans aghast at her inclusion on my list, she is one of many artists who has produced a body of work that is critically acclaimed and loved by one’s fans. But for me, “Rolling in the Deep” is such an incredible song, powerful and moving and beautiful, that the rest of her work pales in comparison. I feel the same way about U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” but I’ll stop there before I alienate three-quarters of the planet’s music lovers.

My point is this: I find it wondrous and wonderful that a human being can create a piece of art that can so profoundly touch another human being’s heart and soul. Perhaps in this M List there is a George Gershwin or a Miles Davis, a Judith Jamison or an Alvin Ailey, a Frida Kahlo or a Jean-Michel Basquiat, but that’s not really who I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the person who feels that almost indescribable desire and need, if not compulsion, to express something otherwise inexpressible through an artistic medium.

And they do it. And maybe nothing rises to the level of true and universal greatness, or even appreciation. That’s fine. But even if it’s just one piece, one expression that contains that mysterious element that connects to another’s spirit and imagination, that to me is miraculous.

I had never heard of the vast majority of the names our august M List curatorial team offered for consideration. And it made me realize how many talented artists and craftspeople we have in this community alone. So many people who, in their hearts and souls and minds, have that itch to create and that spark of an idea that may just fly over the head of one person while inflaming in another a deeper understanding and appreciation of what it means to be alive.

All it takes is one note, one stroke, one word, one shape, one something none of us has ever heard or seen before. And if it’s the one and perhaps only thing we do, that one hit that has an impact on someone else, it’s more than worth it. And so The Cascades, Big Country and Question Mark and the Mysterians, I salute you.

The Beacon Shines
It seems significant that a group of business and journalism folk comprising the WISC-TV Editorial Board would be excited about a day center for homeless people. But after a tour of the barely 1-year-old facility on East Washington Avenue, we are excited and impressed. The former Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce building has been transformed into a bright, clean, modern, welcoming resource center offering case management and counseling, but also showers, laundry, a kitchen, meals, storage for belongings and more. The Catholic Charities-hired staff is professional, friendly and smart. The vibe is respectful and helpful. Madison needed this place. We’re better for having it.

A Giving Place
National Philanthropy Day is Nov. 2, but the awards luncheon put on by the Madison chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals always sells out, so we’re not going to even try to sell tickets. What we are going to do is say AFP’s Greater Madison Chapter is a terrific organization that puts on one of the best events of the year celebrating Madison’s many – big and small –  exceptionally generous philanthropists. It’s hard to think of a better antidote to the election four days later.