A friend of mine has a neighbor in her apartment building who likes wreaths. The wreaths change whenever the seasons change, and because my friend is fascinated by this, she makes paintings that are exact replicas and then hangs them on her door. She is an amazing artist, and I find it amusing that she takes time out of her busy schedule to participate in a joke for such a very small audience. I can't help but love her for this, because I think small acts of kindness and good humor like hers contribute to the folklore of living spaces (places where we often keep such displays indoors and to ourselves).
If we look around our city, we can see our art history is being written right now. And what is interesting about these spaces is not just that they are visually appealing, but they actually are built from within. Artists often take ownership of underappreciated spaces and highlight their cultural relevance. Then, when others participate with the environment, it becomes enshrined as representative of contemporary culture.
We are not all artists -- at least not all artists who create this sort of meaning. But we all have capabilities for art to some extent, much in the same way I am capable of giving back exact change without calling myself an important mathematician. Anyone can spend a little time on the weekends as an artist for self-enrichment; this is art literacy that helps to define us as a city where art thrives. The invention of the printing press contributed to the literacy of the masses and is a testament to the power of the democratization of knowledge. A hundred years after printing presses became widespread, arguably the greatest novel of all time was published. What can we expect from a city that is fluent in the language of art? What will our artists be capable of if they are taken seriously?
We are at a point where we have new tools and a new awareness of art and design all around us. Every artistic experience we participate in makes up the culture and folklore of our city. The very collective outwardness of the expression of our identities is what makes art. And even more than that, it makes spaces authentic of their own diversity and representative of their points of view. My friend's apartment is an illustration of these ideas: A wreath is a piece of folk art. The painting mimicking the wreath across the hallway is what turns them both into a site-specific installation. When all people interact with art, we collectively create a cultural landscape that becomes continuously richer.
It is not enough for our city to have trash-free neighborhoods full of roundabouts. We need to have more identity than the genius of engineers and the glory of sports teams. The more ownership we feel toward the spaces we inhabit, the more they will reflect who we are as residents. Every space is potentially an art space. Every place where we have made, make, and will make art is a potential art museum. And we as a community are who decide what the price for that is.