The other day I was listening to National Public Radio when a piece came on about Camden, New Jersey. Apparently Camden was once a thriving, bustling, vibrant community. It has, however, fallen on hard times, is blighted and, in many quarters, mostly abandoned. In an effort to revitalize the community, the local parish has embarked on a redevelopment program which focuses on bringing art; performing, visual and other types, back into the downtown. When asked about this project, the priest who spearheads the program said, “Art will save us!”
That phrase stuck in my mind, and I kept repeating it to myself, along with snatches from Paul Simon’s Graceland, the other day as I peddled my bicycle south from White Mesa at about 7:15 a.m. The sun was not long up from its nightly trip around the world and was beginning to create what I like to refer to as God Art. For me, this entire area is one enormous canvas, and I am always excited to see the ever-changing, constantly evolving portrait.
As I looked east, I noticed the sun rhythmically poking its rays through the puffy clouds that had accumulated over the plateau the night before, illuminating scattered sections of landscape in pulses of brilliance. Here there were shadows, there colorful patches that burned brightly. The diffused sunlight seemed to skitter over the canyons and mesas like an insect on hundred and ten degree pavement.
To the west awakened Comb Ridge, the sandstone monocline that Navajo people believe forms an arm of the female Pollen Mountain. Her head is Navajo Mountain, Black Mesa her body and her breasts are Tuba Butte and Agathla Peak. As the light moved across the land, Comb Ridge seemed alive, dynamic. God’s palette was nothing short of stunning, and at that moment Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel had nothing on the exterior beauty of southern San Juan County.
Like the sun across the land, I could feel a glow beginning to infect me. Deep in my being, the color that was shifting back and forth over the land was growing inside my body, making me smile outwardly and for some unknown reason motivating me to shout out loud. What I would say, I did not know, but hallelujah or a deep growl seemed likely.
Some believe our country has become much like Camden; dark and dreary, with an uncertain future. The economy has left many unsure, and countless plans have been abandoned. Admittedly, there is a great deal to concern us. Day after day reports arrive notifying us the job market is weak, the stock market is weak, the housing market is weak and consumers are cautious. We hear terms like “double dip recession” and “long term sluggish growth” that make us wonder what is next.
Every morning, however, I come into the trading post, feel the power of art and believe it will indeed save us. For years I have noted its effect on visitors to Twin Rocks Trading Post. Some are confused, some are intrigued, but all seem enriched by the experience. Never have I had anyone walk away less happy than they were before seeing the rugs, baskets, jewelry, folk art and paintings created by local artists.
Like the parish priest of Camden, Barry and I have been working on our own project to revitalize and rejuvenate the local economy. We believe art, whether it be the God Art found in the vast cathedral just outside our Kokopelli doors or the artistic creations of local Native American artists, will indeed redeem us. Hallelujah brother. Our faith is strong.
With Warm Regards,
Steve, Barry and the Team.