True Open-Mindedness in Art

 John Lyon’s Theatre

John Lyon’s Theatre

Sarah Cagle

Okay, let me start this by saying that you, whomever may be reading this, may very well be offended by the words I'm about to say. I do, however, think it is fair to say that anyone who preaches open-mindedness in art will agree with me. Warnings and cautions aside, let me get right into this. 

True open-mindedness means hearing or seeing something you may completely disagree with but rather than immediately rejecting or objecting the ideas, you are perceptive to them. You may consider them, engage in fair conversation about them, maybe even compare them to your current set of beliefs. It's a great concept when utilized accurately, especially in the setting of a piece of art.

The unfortunate truth here is that, although many would likely agree that open-mindedness in art is a great concept, I see with my own eyes that it just isn't executed that way. You see, many people are willing to be open-minded about ideas that they agree with, that flow in the direction of their preexisting belief system, but what happens when something challenges their previous views, beliefs, thoughts or perceptions? Well, I'm sad to say that in my personal experience, it often results in name-calling, verbal abuse and various attacks on character.

I'll give you a bit of background on myself, personally, so as to see where I'm coming from when I write these kinds of things. I am a very conservative Christian who loves theatre and art so automatically, my very existence is what some people call "impossible". They claim that the very idea of being a conservative person means that you cannot enjoy the idea of expression and storytelling through art and that you automatically hate everything that the art and artist communities around the world stand for. 

Yes, people have actually said these things; with their words and actions, people make these thoughts and feelings abundantly clear. A community that prides itself on being all-inclusive and open-minded, alienates members of it's own community on a very regular basis for simply having different beliefs. 

There are conservative actors, composers, playwrights and people in a variety of careers under the "artist" umbrella that often either have to hide their ideals and beliefs or be subject to horrible scrutiny on social media and perhaps even lose their jobs or future career opportunities. 

This is the all-inclusive community that we have come to know. A community that will stretch its neck out for someone across the world that they agree with but will turn their head to their neighbor with which they don't. The very thing progressives in all levels of society complain about, lack of inclusivity, is the very thing many people of all political beliefs are now guilty of. We have come to value our friends of the same beliefs more than we value the community of people different than us; the people we can learn from, the people that can learn from us. We have come to value political allegiance over our simple humanity that unifies us all. 

I'm not asking for a world-changing unity where we all hold hands and smile at each other, ignoring every other issue. What I am asking, is that the next time we encounter someone different than us, politically, religiously, or otherwise, we remember their humanity. We remember that this is an opportunity to learn and to teach, to understand another person for who they are as they are and love them just the same. It's time we extend the same humanity and decency that we appreciate and we keep a true open-mind to artists, pieces of art and people that may just be different than what we're used to or what we prefer. It'll be that humanity and love that truly unites artists across the world.