Art is In the Middle of the Middle of the Middle of Your Life

In the middle of Michigan, which falls somewhere (roughly) in the middle of the country, is the city of Lansing. In the center of Lansing’s downtown is the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center (LAG). That’s the middle of the middle of the middle.

I discovered the LAG a few years ago, in my forties, which I hope to be the middle of my life. Until then, art was not a big part of my life. Before I discovered the LAG, I’d wander the downtown streets during my lunch break, killing time before returning to work for the afternoon. It’s not a bad downtown here in Lansing. There is a variety of food, spirits and shops.

People familiar with the area likely have their favorite restaurants. Certainly those who work downtown have their routines timed to the minute to get away from their desk, get their favorite food, and return to the office before the one o’clock whistle blows.

I heard about the LAG from a coworker who had their artwork on display in the shop. Discovering the Lansing Art Gallery was a breath of fresh air on a hot day. I’m not a stranger to art galleries, but they’ve intimidated me in the past. Some aspects of artwork seem like magic. The ability to conjure an image with pen and paper, or whatever, is beyond my reasoning.

But such things—paintings, ceramics, and mixed media works of art—shouldn’t be a mystery at all. To create art is one of the fundamental behaviors of human beings. It comes naturally to us, as any parent realizes when their child scribbles on the living room wall.

As we learn to walk and talk, we also sing, dance, and create art. Tragically, those natural desires are often discouraged as we grow up. I, for instance, loved coloring in kindergarten. I enjoyed art projects throughout grade school, and created a comic book with a friend during middle school. It was lousy, but we had fun. The emphasis at my school, and within my family, was to pursue sports and academics. I blame myself, but maybe a nudge by a parent or teacher would have kept me interested in the arts, and removed the mystery.

Visual arts, music and dance are the foundation of human culture. Language, and storytelling, would not have emerged without that foundation. Yet many of us never learn to express any of those foundations. Obviously, you can survive without knowing how to draw, sing or dance, but life is certainly more interesting if you can. For many years, I lived without those things. That’s why I found the LAG to be such a breath of fresh air.

Even when art is not discouraged, it can require extra effort to pursue, as it’s not always offered in school. Parents often struggle to keep up with their day-to-day, and may view the arts as a luxury. But it’s more of a necessity than we realize.

Many communities have art galleries and dance studios, but they tend to be an oasis only for those willing to commit significant amounts of money. The Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center, however, offers affordable classes for children and adults. It also sponsors competitions for high school and college students and offers a wide range of affordable works of art in its shop. That sounds like a shameless, blatant promotion, but this is America, and commerce (sadly) is the dominant force in our culture.

The wonderful thing about the Lansing Art Gallery and Education Center is that it offers unique works of art for any budget. It also showcases Michigan artists and provides a welcoming environment for everyone to experience art. Once I realized that the LAG was downtown, I visited often. I didn’t necessarily buy art. I experienced it.

Having wandered into the Lansing Art Gallery on that warm summer day, I was happily encouraged to explore. Look around, they said. See what you like.

I felt I had no talent with visual arts, and so I expected to be baffled and humbled by what I saw. Instead, the works were interesting, fun, and engaging. I felt so welcome that I visited repeatedly and, eventually, I applied to join the board of directors. For the past five years, I’ve offered some of my time and talents to help the LAG help Lansing.

I regret not making art a bigger part of the first half of my life, but I won’t make that mistake with the second half .

The LAG is Lansing’s hidden gem, offering an art experience to the community. Take advantage and visit. I promise you’ll be welcome there, and you’ll find something to spark your interest.

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