Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Thank You to the Artists

Upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, William Faulkner said that it was the work of the artist to lift up people’s lives and help them endure. I am sure that he would have said the same today. As we enter double digits in the number of weeks sheltering in place, our coping skills can sometimes wear thin.

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The extraordinary talent and generosity of the artists of our time who have shared their voice and dance is food for the soul. Even more than simply helping me endure, I find the music uniquely life affirming and hear the words of the sages, “when in doubt, choose life.” With an enormous debt of gratitude to artists everywhere who have shared their talents with the world, I offer five favorites that have helped me cope, refuel, and feel more resilient during these trying times.

1. Thank you to Juilliard School. Your commitment to bringing forward the next generation of artists is extraordinary. From Itzhak Perlman to the administrative staff to the student artists to Yo-Yo Ma, every minute of this exquisitely choreographed performance of Ravel’s Bolero is beyond fabulous. Most everyone will know the music. No one has ever seen it performed with such creative imagination and artistry.  Click here to view.

2. Thank you to Andrea Bocelli. Your “Music for Hope” performance on Easter Sunday from the Duomo in Milan brought beauty and inspiration to the entire world. I watched it live as did more than 2.8 million others – making it one of the biggest musical live-stream performances of all time. As of this writing, over 39 million people have viewed it on YouTube. It was the peak of the pandemic in Italy, and as you stood alone in the cavernous space, save the pianist, in the majestic light of the stained glass windows, you brought all of humanity to a place that transcended the dire conditions of the present to a brighter future. Closing with Amazing Grace was inspired and inspiring. Click here to view.

3. Thank you to the Platt Brothers. In this piece, Ben Platt of Dear Evan Hansen fame, is joined by his brothers, Jonah and Henry, to sing a beautiful rendition of Ahavat Olam arranged by Gabe Mann and Piper Rutman. A Hebrew prayer of love and gratitude, these three brothers in joyful harmony inspire hope for humanity. And for parents with little kids at home who are fighting more than usual, it is living proof that there is the possibility of sibling bickering giving way to something to celebrate – eventually!  Click here to view.

4. Thank you to Boston Ballet. With Mikko Nissinen as artistic director, this dance company displays artistry and athleticism in their every move. Beautiful to behold, the power of their dance sweeps us off our feet. They perform traditional pieces like Sleeping Beauty and more experimental works like choreographer William Forsythe’s Playlist (EP). And they do it with such grace and seeming ease, we can vicariously imagine being able to move like this! Click here to view. 

5. Thank you to Melissa Etheridge. We were honored to have Melissa Etheridge headline our Love is EleMental event this past February. Her passion and soulful artistry inspired everyone. I am deeply grateful for her support of our arts and mental health program, and I send my heartfelt condolences to Melissa who recently lost her 21 year old son, Beckett, to an opioid overdose. Melissa knows personally how urgently we need to enhance our capacity to get care to those with mental health and addiction challenges. Having cancelled her world tour, she has been sharing daily concerts from home. One of my favorites from #Stay Home with Melissa Etheridge is Day 44. Click here to view.

I have been sheltering in place in eastern Long Island, a part of the world that has inspired many artists over the years, including Jackson Pollock, who is buried in a nearby cemetery. On one of the headstones near his, it is written, “Artists and poets are the raw nerve ends of humanity. By themselves they can do little to save humanity. Without them there would be little worth saving.” Thank you to all the artists – and there are so many more than the five I highlight here – who are helping us all cope, cultivate resilience, endure, and even thrive in the world come what may.

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Global Mental Health WHO Collaborating Centre at Columbia University.

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