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How Art Has Changed My World

By Cultures Of Dignity | June 6, 2017

Image via Upsplash

Emily is a junior in high school, part-time artist, and full-time sugar lover. She aspires to make a difference, project positivity and read as many books as possible. She has been interning with Cultures of Dignity since February, and this is her first published piece.

I have always found it difficult to express my feelings without stuttering or forgetting my point. I have been stuck. I have been voiceless. Until I discovered art, I had so much to say but was unable to squeak the words out. If I did somehow manage to work up the confidence to speak out in class, there was always a boy in the classroom yelling, “I can’t hear her!”

I thought I didn’t belong anywhere in school. My middle school pushed math and science and wouldn’t allow me to take art until 8th grade. Even then it was only an “elective;” clearly indicating that it wasn’t as valued as the other subjects I was “supposed” to be learning. Once I was eligible to take electives, I followed some friends into videography and painting classes. I fell in love at the first drop of paint on my palette and the first frame of footage on the screen. These classes taught me even more about myself. I branched out from my toxic friend group into ones where kindness reigned instead of jealousy. In my videography class, I saw the film “Validation” and was in awe of its powerful depiction of the human need to be seen beautifully. I was so inspired by the film’s perspective that I created a short film but soon realized that I was better suited to simply appreciate the cinematic arts. Undeterred, I was drawn to photography and carried my camera everywhere. I learned how to take pictures on film; a complex process with many trials and tribulations. I persisted, and a year later, my pictures won my town’s annual photography competition. Through photography, I accurately communicated my feelings and gave me the opportunity to create strong friendships that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. By taking a picture, I was simultaneously given a voice.

By taking a picture, I was simultaneously given a voice.

It was with this new perspective that I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I was tired that day, the pouring rain did little to brighten my spirits, and I decided to take refuge in the museum. I wandered the halls, and the art immediately entranced me. There was a painting of a little girl with rosy cheeks full of life, and the panel describing the painting made me feel like I knew the child. In the impressionist section, the people’s eyes in the paintings looked into your soul and hit me in a place that is otherwise unreachable. Being surrounded by these masterpieces and the silence in the halls was perfect for contemplation. The experience changed me. From then on,  I became empathetic in a new way. Even though I was born almost a century later, looking at a painting from the Great Depression left me in tears.

For the rest of a summer, New York’s museums had an eager new visitor. Throughout my exploration of different forms of art, I concluded that art is everywhere and a part of all of us. I saw a woman sitting under an ad on the subway with a baby girl… and I saw a painting. I saw a flock of geese flying above me and they transformed into a film. From that day at the museum forward, I carried these feelings back with me, determined to apply them as much as possible in my own life.

Over the past few years, I have continued to develop film, write poems, and ruin jeans with paint. When words have failed, art has been there. At an art show, I was admiring a painting of a woman and her two children. Next to me was an old woman who had been staring at it for at least ten minutes. “Do you like it?” I inquired, interested to hear her opinion. “Me gusta mucho,” she replied with a smile. Though we spoke different languages and barely understood one another, the painting brought us together. We exchanged smiles, like we had a secret, and went back to staring at the work. When I found art, it was because I was hungry to express my dreams and wished people appreciated its power like I did. Art teaches me that there is more than one side to see and think about everything. By teaching myself to view pieces with different perspectives, I create a space in which I am able to carry these ideals into my life, now and in the future. The world we live in doesn’t encourage thoughtfulness. Amongst all this chaos, I hope that others find themselves in the art as well.  

If you have any questions for Emily, you can contact her at