Monet 's "La Siene a Vetheuil"

“La Siene a Vetheuil” by Monet is one of my favorite pieces at MMAM. Photo found at

Bright lights, silky oil on canvas, gilded frames intricately carved—there is something so wonderfully magical about art. Earlier this summer, I decided I wanted to get more involved in the Winona community, so I ventured to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum to sign up to be a volunteer greeter. For two hours a month, I wander around a gallery in the museum and do whatever I must to make people feel more comfortable. However, my favorite part of the gig is definitely getting to spend time with all that beautiful art for free.

Growing up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities was a godsend for me. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Walker Art Center and a few high school teachers exposed me to so much art, from the impressionist painters to Japanese pop art. Through all forms of art including music, poetry, dance and painting, I’ve learned so much about myself and about the world as well. Many people see different forms of art as self expression—and it is—but art is so much more than that.

I know it’s cliché to say but I really do believe that art dramatically improves our world.

Art has the power to cross cultural, social, racial and economical boundaries. Consider for a moment, the kinds of diversity we have here in our own homeland.  America is a melting pot and art can be a common place where our many differences disappear. Art is like it’s own language that anyone can speak. Furthermore, art provides an opportunity for authentic cultural experiences. From the traditional dances of an African tribe to impressionistic European paintings, each is a lens for a view into another culture.

Art is also a window into the past. It’s a visual record of what people in the past thought and experienced. While written and oral histories can provide a fully story, artists like Van Gogh and William Turner put a picture of the past directly into your mind. And that’s much more exciting than history textbooks, eh?

Not only that, but art is great for the local economy. Just like buying local food at the farmers market, supporting local arts is healthy for the community. Events like Winona’s monthly Downtown Art Project  bring a lot of people to local businesses. It’s also a great opportunity for people in the community to get to know each other. During orientation week my freshmen year, I went to a music night at Some Sum Studio and ended up chatting with the artist and the owner of the studio. As a result of that night, I decided to volunteer for Midwest Music Fest in the Spring and I’ve met so many wonderful people through that event.

Art fosters community and, while one person can make a difference, an active and engaged community can really change the world.