Why do we now say Kyiv instead of Kiev? It’s because Kyiv is the Ukrainian pronunciation and Russia’s invasion is a culture war.Their disputes are old-as-dirt and Ukrainian Nikita Khrushchev tried to enable a Ukrainian revival with the transfer of Crimea from Russia. But, Soviet repression went beyond land and sovereignty.
With the USSR dissolution, Ukraine established a new government with its own national anthem in Ukrainian, not Russian. It’s no accident that Putin’s treaty demands include protection for the Russian language. It may seem trivial, but imagine if England suddenly tried to re-establish British control over America and insisted that we revert to British English. If England were like Putin, you might go to jail if you refused to spell “color” as “colour”, the original, British version. Or what about our patriotic song, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”? That melody was originally an unofficial national anthem of England. We wouldn’t tolerate going back to its original title: “God Save the Queen”. We’d fight a new War of Independence.
NOAH Seeks to Professionalize Arts Programs in Healthcare Settings
No person looks forward to a visit to the hospital or other similar healthcare settings. Oftentimes, being in the hospital is a process that is scary, uncertain, and full of anticipation for answers and recovery. Research has shown that healing is made better by the arts, which bring humanity to institutions such as hospitals, elder and hospice care, as well as those living at home with chronic diseases like cancer or Parkinson’s.
Despite research that supports arts in health, many health institutions do not have programs incorporating the arts. This is why the National Organization for Arts in Health (NOAH) has remained committed to expanding awareness and acceptance of the arts as a vital component for healing, public health, and wellbeing.
“Either we all survive or none of us do” ~Vincent Van Gogh
In 2020, I drew together a small collection of lifetime short stories and essays in a slim volume entitled Camping On The Edge. I was facing a medical fork in the road about eliminating my anti-cholesterol pill which caused tremendously painful leg cramps. I felt I was faced with choosing more life in the years remaining versus simply adding years to my life. Or, as I like to say, “Longevity is highly overrated.”
One of the essays was entitled Dear Theo. It is a letter I wrote in the spirit of Vincent Van Gogh based on my readings and lifelong study of his art and letters. Now, after sharing my letter to Theo with our delightful editor-publisher Ms. Levine, I try to respond to her query: How Do You Make Art Come Alive? The next morning the answer was clear and concise: I become them in a letter writing session.
Whether I’m studying playwrights like Eugene O’Neil or Bertolt Brecht, artists like Paul Cezanne or Vincent Van Gogh, I dig deeply into their works and what others have said about them. Over time, I find myself becoming like one of my heroes. When I am full to the brim with Vincent Van Gogh I write a letter as though I were him, addressed to his brother Theo. It is a great way to sum up my learning. My process does not require submission, display, or editing, and I just toss down whatever comes my way as I write the letter.
My letter began in my first round of Van Gogh studies and was marked in my journal with the title: 1/25/12 RX for Reclaiming Life. As a boomer growing up in the 1950s, my parents were intent on educating my entire personality. This included painting, carving, and dancing lessons . Carving has randomly sustained itself over the years in the form of soap carving. Recently, I placed an Amazon order for a palette, paint tubes, brushes, and pallet knives. I am returning to my lifetime lust for life: painting.
In 2022 we were fortunate to attend the spectacular Van Gogh exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. Upon exiting, I spied a book weighing several pounds and running 800+ pages. In my life that would be the equivalent of 3+ books. Never too old to learn a lesson, eh?
This book, by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, turned out to be one of the best three books I’ve ever read. I learned so much about the times and the personalities. On my walls these last few decades I get to view my favorite Van Gogh quote: Either we all survive or none of us do.
Longevity plus Creativity! I am gassed up, tank be full, as I release the parking brake and head back down that acrylic painting highway. With this I present you my slightly edited long lost letter from Vincent to his brother Theo.
Vincent Van Gogh’s Lost Letter
Dear Theo, The longer I stay in Paris the more my reason dissipates. My life is in jeopardy! Ever since the breakup, it has been like a perpetual funeral in winter. Dark and brooding colors are choking off my very breath. Clouds of burnt sienna shut out all the light, and dull olive-green shadows close in upon my very footsteps.
I am choking on bourgeois snobbery. The dealer you sent me to has rejected my work as the product of an “amusing colorist.” I must flee the cruel passions of an indifferent public.
This is why I must use your generous check to strike out upon a new path. I must take leave of this heartless city before the gloomy horizon swallows me up, body and soul!!
The crimson passion, smoldering deep inside me, is about to burst if I don’t find an outlet for my energies! This is why I plan to leave this dreary place for the sunny south lands. I want to use the money to open a deli in Arles. But this will be much more than a bagel-shop. I’ll call it the Post-Impressionist Deli and it will cater to the needs of tortured souls — a haven for my misunderstood brethren.
I have just finished sketching plans for an entire art colony, built around the deli. I know artists will flock to a terrain overflowing with lemon yellow sunshine. Each day gently bids adieu amidst a delicate, purple haze. You must come and see for yourself, dear Theo.
I have already written Gauguin and offered him the upstairs. I know what you will say. You think I am a poor roommate owing to my stubborn and argumentative qualities. Do not worry. I will give Paul complete reign of the upstairs which he can flood with canvas. I will play out my mission below, constructing my themes upon the stove and butcher block.
I realize that my past exploits in the kitchen are nothing to brag about. I ignored the treasures of the tongue because my mind was fastened upon my oils and brushes. But I am now free of that plague! Your “amusing colorist” is driven by a deep and abiding hunger to create for others, and this hunger will catapult me into the ranks of my culinary colleagues. Today I salute the new direction my life has taken!
You should also know that I did not make this decision lightly. In fact, I believe this choice was guided by the very hand of God! Last week I was watching Cezanne painting an open-air market. My eyes were caught up with the colorful array of fruits, meats, breads, and flowers. I suddenly began hearing a chorus of color in my head. Before my eyes a dazzling parade unfolded. I saw starburst yellows cavorting with fruity oranges, celery greens streaked by pure meaty reds. My head was spinning, spinning as my vision dissolved into flecks of pure color!
I found myself stumbling backwards, falling against a bookseller’s cart. The words of a hundred authors cushioned my decent. I reached out for a railing to pull myself up, and providence guided my hand in this divine comedy. I found myself clutching a slim, colorful volume entitled “Recipes from the Impressionist’s Kitchen.”
Surely, dear Theo, this is the sign I have been waiting for all my life! God is urging me to this calling. You will die for the Toulouse-Lautrec’s “Chocolate Upside Down Cake.” And the chapter on “Pointillists Appetizers” is nothing, if not brilliant!
I would write more, dear Theo, but I must hasten to the market before sunset. I’m going to begin with healthy foods, starting tonight with Monet’s “Water Lilly Low-Fat Salad.” I will throw my entire being into this venture!! I will keep at it until I get it right. I don’t care if I must eat a hundred salads by next week! I will rip my tongue out before I quit!!
Author’s final note: Fortunately, for the history of art, Van Gogh was a terrible cook and never got much beyond a potato eater. As a result, his brother Theo refused to fund the deli and Vincent returned to painting while in Arles. And for those of you who share Vincent’s passions, for whom the art of cooking is no less than the art of writing, painting, playing, or helping others, I ask only that you let me know when you open your own Post-Impressionist Cafe.
Eileen Koteles is an actor and choreographer. Raising her three sons, she realized the gift of teaching through the Arts. Now returning to the stage, Eileen performs as Dr. Ruth, an iconic sex therapist who lost her family in the Holocaust.
Eileen finds she is still teaching through the Arts and urges us to support the arts as a platform for tolerance whether theater, writing, poetry, dance, painting, or photography.
Hear Eileen talk about:
1. How does teaching through the Arts apply to diversity and inclusion?
2. What does the one woman show about Dr. Ruth teach us?
Why create an Arts in Health program for Mother’s Day? According to the CDC, women caregivers have a greater risk for poor physical and mental health, including depression and anxiety. Mothers have held such heavy weights this last year: from grieving losses to taking on more responsibilities such as managing work from home, additional hours for childcare, homeschooling, at-home nursing, coaching, offering tech support and much more. The presence of art and music in healthcare enhances the overall experience. It allows us to remove ourselves from whatever we’re battling to be motivated and inspired.
Diverse partners joined together in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to inspire and support women and female artists for Mother’s Day and, most importantly, promote health and well-being through the Arts. The program included artwork by Alex Paul Loza, music by Shane Morrow and a presentation of new work from poet Erika Roberts in partnership with multiple organizations that will resonate with communities across the country.
The Arts have existed since folks drew on cave walls and I suspect that there was some humming and harmony back in the day before song writing was a thing. Communal dancing around fires at night was an aboriginal celebration in humanity’s history. Artistic expression by individuals and groups seems to be embedded in our DNA. And one of the things that saved me when I first came to America as a kid, was this country’s passion for Arts and Culture.
My cousin Sam and I escaped our Harvard dorms and were about to experience neurocommunication as we headed out to a Ravi Shankar concert in a small neighborhood theater in Boston. I was just seventeen, you know what I mean, and it was frostbite territory standing at the bus stop in Cambridge, Mass. Freezing almost took my mind off of being homesick for my family back in New York. Overcome with loneliness, I needed an attitude adjustment and Sam insisted on some music therapy. He thought that classical sitar music from India would distract and soothe – reboot my brain. I wondered why we were the only Harvard students who ‘d come to hear this relatively unknown musician from India. But it was the sixties and Shankar hadn’t yet been labeled by The Beatles’ George Harrison as “the godfather of world music”.
Podcast interview with Jan Levine Thal, Artistic Director, Kathie Rasmussen Women’s Theatre (Krass), Madison, WI. Krass supports women playwrights and directors but welcomes people of all genders in all other aspects of its work. In this interview she discusses why women’s theater is the same and different from all other theater. See the website for current and past work:krasstheatre.com
To suffer for one’s art has long been taken for granted as the only way to succeed. Monetary gain for any kind of artistic or creative work can to some be outrageous and unforgivable. Artists who demand high prices are frowned upon for being too money orientated as if they are sullying the arts profession by prostituting their own style and talents. Art for money is not considered to be the acceptable primary directive as we should all be purists in heart and mind manifesting our art for the satisfaction of being able to express ourselves through our chosen medium.
Language and culture are inter-woven in our normal lives, but the depth or the centre point, from where all the imagination and creativity originates in the form of art and literature, is obscured in the hidden layers of the unconscious self. It is from the deepest layer of the self where all the diversity of life springs. At the same time, it is the focal point, or an ultimate abode, for diverseness becoming oneness of being.