Lessons from the 2017 European Arts Forum

What is beauty? This is the question that the European Arts Forum (EAF) attempts to answer. Beauty is seeing clearly into each other with a complete respect for each other’s dignity and I can truly relate to this belief that EAF holds.

After working on EAF for two and a half months, I was exhausted by the start and I, unfortunately, had the mindset that even though I believed that I would enjoy it, I simply wanted to rest afterwards. This however quickly changed as the opening exhibition started and I saw the amazing artwork presented by artists from all over Europe. It was so satisfying to see all this work come to fruition and even more satisfying to enjoy the forum.

The theme of this year’s EAF was “Unity in Diversity: Connecting Europe through Culture,” and it clearly displayed this theme. Seeing art from all over Europe, with its nuances and unique styles furthered my realization that every culture is different, but that this fact manifests itself into the realization that differences are an asset. We are brought together through our differences as it creates solidarity between us. In fact, Mafalda Pereira da Cunha echoes the Dalai Lama when he states, “we are dependent on each other in so many ways that we can no longer live in isolated communities.” This reality binds us, makes us see each other as complementary, and brings out the best in our empathy towards, not only our different cultures but our different selves.

Jaquelin Kaufmann said it best that, to paraphrase, the technical aspects are important in good music, however, it’s our subjective viewpoints that give music its beauty for each of us. That recognition that our tastes are subjective is a strength to our recognition of each person’s human dignity, as we must empathize with each other to respect one another’s views and look deeper into what makes it beautiful.

What I gained most from the experience is that each and every one of us has a talent. Whether that be music, drawing, painting, graphic design, poetry, or literature, the arts hold the ability for us to see a manifestation of beauty. Mafalda Pereira da Cunha expresses that “Precisely because of this ‘sense of universal responsibility’ (Dalai Lama) and the fact that we are living in an ever-growing diverse society, it is crucial that we preserve our differences and we celebrate them together.” 

I’ve been inspired not only by the fact that we can utilize our differences to bring each other together but also the realization that not all the great art in the world comes from the past. Not everyone is Rubens, Da Vinci, or Picasso, art lies not only in the past but with the present. The next great artists that will be recognized tomorrow are present today, and I will never forget the art I witnessed from a community, not so different from myself. We are all bonded together in our love for art and its beauty, and to forget that is to forget our humanity.

Written by Rhodes Kirkpatrick WYA Europe intern.