“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oliver
The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a time period for deep soul searching and re-grounding, a time to regain balance, and a time to ask questions. Am I the person I want to be in this world? What am I doing to help make the world a better place? How am I helping to “repair the world”?
“Repairing the world” or Tikkun Olam is an inherent part of being Jewish. Hence, I ask myself: What acts of kindness am I, as an artist, performing to perfect or help repair the world?
When I am alone painting in my studio, choosing to be an artist feels selfish. Yet art is my solace. It helps me make sense of the world, whether through writing, painting, music, reading, or theater. Through art, I wrestle with my emotions, my circumstances, my dreams, my joys, my aches, and often, my pain. The drive to create, to express myself visually, is deep. It helps give voice to feelings that are difficult to express verbally. In the most difficult of times, my yearning for self-expression is palpable.
What is my role as an artist and tikkun olam? I often donate to worthy causes. I’m currently preparing to teach a four-week art class for victims of sexual abuse at the Women’s Center of Lansing. Over the past year I have painted a door to be auctioned off for Habitat for Humanity, sculpted an art bra for the Women’s Center, created masks for the Firecracker Foundation (a local organization that aids children of sexual trauma), donated a painting for Art for Charlie (an organization supporting pediatric hospice and parental bereavement), and was a guest artist at Reach Art Studio, a neighborhood art studio.
Yet, I’ve tried to create a life that includes tikkun olam at all levels, not just my volunteer work or “extra time.” When I think about “giving back” as an artist, it’s undoubtedly woven into the fabric of my being. I find myself drawn to organizations and events with a common thread: They believe art, in all its forms, can be a vehicle for awareness, hope, and healing.
Art reminds us of beauty and of pain, of hope and of healing. As much as I am happy to support local causes, helping others be creative and learn about themselves through the process is the most gratifying form of tikkun olam I know. When leading on-line art journaling classes or teaching mixed-media workshops, I work to help students understand themselves better and express it through their art. It is a form of self-expression that can be both disorienting and healing. This has always proven true for me and I find it true for others as well.
I know my Judaism has shaped the way I approach my art, both professionally and personally. I have been taught to reflect, trust my intuition, strive for perfection, and give back. In learning about myself through art, and then helping others create their own systems for healing and growth, I hope to help repair the world, one person at a time, one step at a time, one paintbrush at a time. In that vein, I annually reflect on Mary Oliver’s question in the back of our prayer book: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”