"Can we experience this together?" he asked.
"I would love nothing more than to be your partner," she answered.
I am a community creature. Gathering with others, sharing experiences, and building spaces where diverse points of view and opinions swirl together is something I find deeply rewarding. But over the past few months, as I have thrown myself into various artistics spaces, this has mostly been a solo experience, as has the travel I have engaged in alongside my art viewing.
Last week I gathered with twenty-three teachers from around the country to spend four days immersed in art. Under the leadership of the National Portrait Gallery, we dove head-first into the stories, the history, and the people of our nation. Together, we experienced art. It was beautiful in a thousand unexpected ways.
The National Portrait Gallery is a stunning space. Layered with drawings, photography and paintings, this museum helps not just tell stories but to complicate the narrative of our nation. Portraits, unlike other forms of art, allow for a depth of analysis that moves beyond the image. Each piece also holds behind it a biography, a life, and a legacy.
During these days spent in the company of educators, curators, historians, artists, and images, I was struck by how complex we all are. Upon first glance there is so much to take in, yet so much that goes unnoticed. With deeper investigation we can begin to grab pieces of these people, their loves and passions and flaws, that weave a beautiful picture of what it means to be human.
Together we shared moments of discovery, insight, and knowledge that made this experience much richer. For when I found a community that was willing to look together, the images got brighter and the meaning splintered a thousand miles deeper. An experience that I had held sacred as individual and personal was transformed when I began to build partners in looking and seeing and understanding.
All of this was followed by Artscape, the largest art festival in the country, held here in Baltimore. Thousands upon thousands of people gather to view, experience, and celebrate art in all forms. Together the people of Baltimore band together to share in experiencing beauty in so many different ways.
Walking these art-filled streets of the city I love, I realized that it is in exposing yourself to others we are able to truly see who we are. Until then, we only have a partial view of ourselves.
So who are your partners? Who is pointing out the pieces you missed and showing you the beauty you overlooked? Who can take the common and make it extraordinary? Where are the people that love what you love?
Find them. Hold out your hand. Then walk together. Partnership is a beautiful thing.