The arts can change minds and evoke empathy. The arts can shift the peripheral to the mainstream, “them” to “us,” and make the political personal.

Neuroscience tells us that the desire to create art and engage with aesthetics is hardwired in our brains. Almost certainly, humans felt the centrality of art in their lives long before there were words to express it. On cave walls and in tombs, our human ancestors mapped stories, explained values, and recorded their histories with pictures and symbols.Almost certainly, humans felt the centrality of art in their lives long before there were words to express it.

Today, those artistic expressions take many forms. While we tend to think of art as existing in formal settings, such as paintings in a gallery or a play on a stage, its reach is much wider and more inclusive.

Think of the street artists who paint messages and images in our public spaces, local artists who create work that is shared at block parties, or the high school student making and sharing music on social media. If we take an expansive view of what we consider as art and creative expression, there are no creative deserts. This is a beautiful and challenging thought in a world that trains us to ascribe certain values to formal expressions and certain (lesser) values to informal expressions of creativity.

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