My studio is my bubble. There I feel at ease. I very much enjoy creating art, but also sharing my work with my followers so I can use my voice as an artist to speak up and speak out. (You can read more about “Job, Career or Calling – Why do I create?” in this blog post.)
However, the pandemic has disrupted many lives. Although I continue to enjoy creating art, when looking at the state of this world the question becomes: does my art matter? Does art matter when people lost their jobs, when they cannot pay their bills, when they are at risk for losing their home, when the lines at food banks are miles long? Does art still matter in those situations?
I think art does matter, both the creation and the consumption of art. It might be singing, dancing or writing that helps us to keep our spirits up. It might be reading a poem or book to be transferred to a different- albeit fictional- world for a little while. It might be looking at paintings or art quilts to be reminded that there is still beauty in this world.
I feel fortunate, so much more fortunate than many other people who were affected by the pandemic. I’m aching when I see the misery of others, when it takes a bigger effort than art to lift people up. To make a positive contribution, I decided to volunteer for EAT North Carolina.
I live in Durham County, North Carolina. About 20,000 students receive meals in the cafeteria of their public schools, and about 65% of these students receive school meals for free or at a reduced price. Currently, many schools offer virtual learning only, which means that the students from socioeconomically challenged backgrounds do not receive breakfast or lunch at school. Often the families cannot afford to buy sufficient food and consequently, the kids go hungry.
Although students or their parents/guardians can pick up meals from school cafeterias, many families don’t have means of transportation available (eg as the breadwinner in the family uses the family’s only car to commute to their workplace). These families need support to receive the meals for their eligible children. As a volunteer for EAT NC, I serve those families.
Every week I get families assigned. I drive to school to pick up breakfast and lunch for a week. It warms my heart to see the line of volunteer drivers who make time in their lives to help those who are less fortunate. This week I delivered meals to 31 students in just two days. Sometimes I drive down gravel roads to the homes, sometimes I see children playing in the dirt. At other times I deliver food to middle class neighborhoods with flowers in the front yards.
I only see the outside of the homes, and I don’t know what goes on in the inside. As a parent myself, I cannot imagine how heartbreaking it must be if you can’t feed your children the amount or quality of food they would need to flourish. Reports show that most parents give their share of food to their kids and prefer to remain hungry themselves instead of seeing their children suffer.
EAT NC contributes to improving the lives of these families.
After my route of deliveries, I return to my studio. I continue to create art to ground myself and to use my voice as an artist. My art matters to me and, hopefully, also to others. And I realize that creating art and delivering food packages are not conflicting or incompatible actions.
After all, expressing values like compassion and kindness, and the wish to support and empower others can be achieved in many ways.
PS: Please feel free to share the information about EAT NC with your community to reach those among us who experience food insecurity. EAT NC offers additional programs beyond the school meal delivery service.