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Arts Day of Giving challenges us to give where our “art” is

By Erie Vitiello

Here at the Art Center we are excited about the “Arts Day of Giving” on Monday, April 29. On this day, communities throughout the Sacramento area can participate in the first ever 24-hour online giving challenge to support the arts in our region. It’s the perfect time for our supporters to give: by going to the website www.givelocalnow.org on Monday and donating to one of the participating arts organizations, you can ensure that your contribution will be matched (based on a percentage of funds raised).

On Monday, the Davis Art Center, Pence Gallery, the Mondavi Center, and other local arts groups and artists, will highlight the online challenge by sharing their talents in multiple locations in Davis, encouraging everyone to “give where their art is” all day long. Davis Commons will come alive with hands-on art experiences from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with more activities planned at the Mondavi Center in the evening. (Rumor has it that you can catch a surprise traveling dance event by PDA: Public Dance Acts and the West Nile Ramblers somewhere in town — just sayin’!) Plus, local restaurants and businesses will show their support throughout the day by giving out discounts and prizes to those who donate.

We are fortunate to live in a place where artistic expression is appreciated and celebrated. From public art and Second Friday ArtAbout openings throughout the city, to the soon-to-be Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis, to our vibrant local art galleries — and yes, the Davis Art Center — the evidence is all around us that art plays a vital role in enriching our community.

But what is it exactly that art contributes to our lives? What does art bring to individuals, families and communities that truly makes it worth our continued support?

Earlier this month, cellist Yo-Yo Ma spoke to these questions at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. (You can watch Ma’s presentation, entitled “Art for Life’s Sake,” at http://www.youtube.com/user/americansforthearts/featured). Art is essential, Ma said, in developing qualities like collaboration, flexibility, imagination, and innovation — qualities that business leaders now say are crucial competencies for success in the modern world. Neuroscience too supports the case for the importance of participation in the arts. Recent studies suggest that effective leadership depends on the ability to transition between two modes of thinking: critical thinking (clear, rational, open-minded and informed by evidence) and empathetic thinking (the capacity to see things from another’s perspective). Art is vital to our development, Ma said, because it exists at the intersection of these two modes. Critical thinking skills are necessary to sustain the rigor and discipline to learn and master artistic technique; empathetic thinking skills are developed as the mastery of technique is transformed into meaning, allowing us as artists to express our innermost selves and us as viewers to understand another’s perspective at the deepest level.

This is why Ma says that “art is for life’s sake.” Art informs and strengthens our development as successful leaders, thinkers, and compassionate human beings. Participation in the arts by individuals, families, and communities will help us, our children, and our children’s children prepare in the best possible way to face the challenges of the future.

Please help us keep the arts alive and available to all in our community by donating online on Monday. There is a $10 minimum donation, but every $10 counts — and will be matched. And remember, the more you give to the Davis Art Center, the greater our share of the challenge funds will be!

Your support of the arts can make a difference. So no matter which arts organization you choose to contribute to, please go to www.givelocalnow.org on April 29 and give what you can. It matters.

— Erie Vitiello is Executive Director of the Davis Art Center

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