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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.

How Art Has Changed My World

By: Emily Kaufold

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.  

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