I think it’s time to again revisit why it is we "do" the arts. Every artist and audience member should have a personal reason why they think the arts are important. Artists also have a responsibility to welcome and involve others and help create future generations of artists and audience members. If you love the arts, then recruit others to your cause. I once spoke with a man who had a cup in his possession that had been recovered from an ancient archeological dig. Certainly the cup was a utilitarian item and its function was simply to hold liquid. This cup, however, was decorated with bright drawings. Why? Because humans have an inner drive to express aesthetics and beauty.

I love watching American Chopper and American Hotrod on the Discovery Channel and all those home design shows because it expresses a "practical" side to the arts. My blue-collar side is a central part of me and where I grew up, and it’s also where I found the artist in myself. With the recent craze in motorcycle and hotrod building, for example, we need to recognize that people express themselves outside of the realm of traditional arts all the time and that new arts audiences will come from this "nontraditional" arts group. It’s the inner drive to which we must appeal. So step out of your arts world, take a fresh look at how others express themselves, and look for the connections to your art form. You’ll be surprised.

As a member of the Emerging Leaders in the Arts Council of Americans for the Arts, I encourage each arts group to hold its own Emerging Arts Leader Creative Conversation in your particular arts community during the month of October. Go to www.artsusa.org for more information. Talk about the future of the arts-your art-and how it’s changing and where the next audience can be encouraged and nurtured. Think outside the box.

The arts are inherently selfless. They’re about giving something back and sharing. These are such wonderful traits to find in adults and children alike-and something to be encouraged and nourished in a civilized culture. We know this, and we want this. How do we do this in central Illinois? Don’t try to shame people into the arts. Work together. Share. Don’t try to force people into your model, but recognize the artist in everyone and appeal to that inner drive. Start with the coffee cup, then the motorcycle, and, eventually, Shakespeare. AA!