I still get a thrill when I actually see a celebrity-particularly if I’m a fan of the entertainer. Last month, I was privileged to hear and see Roberta Flack in concert at the Tri-County Urban League’s annual Black and White Gala. She sang the familiar favorites from her latest album-10 years ago-and shared with the audience highlights from her career. Attendees clapped, swayed, and sang along to Flack and her band, lost in the magic of music. I’ll always hum her songs.

By chance, while on vacation last month, I found myself seated at a table next to Tony Bennett. Having seen him in concert three times and owning most of his albums, now repackaged into CDs, along with current releases, I qualify as a fan. So, yes, I couldn’t help stopping by on the way out of the restaurant to profess my admiration to the 76-year-old entertainer.

I stopped short of asking his secret to the question, "How do you keep the music playing?" which is also the title to one of his hit songs. Rather, I wanted him to know that just the prior week, my daughter and I had purchased his new double CD of hit songs-so she could play her favorites at her high school graduation party. I thought he surely doesn’t tire of hearing that his audience extends to her generation. He graciously thanked me, even though I had intruded on his privacy. He’s an icon not only in the music world, but through his painting.

How sad that we previously only recognized an artist’s talent long after his death. Advanced communication and production have influenced our exposure to various artists and art forms. Through technology, almost everyone has the opportunity to see, hear, and experience various artistry-contemporary as well as timeless. The galleries and museums in central Illinois bring in exhibits, entertainers, and productions we may only have heard about or seen on a television, movie, or computer screen.

Visiting a gallery or purchasing a concert ticket can create a life-long memory. Art comes alive-up close and personal. I’ll never forget seeing those entertainers and others I’ve been privileged to be in the same room with. The operas, the theatrical productions, the Picasso’s, Chihuly’s, and Monet’s will be forever memories.

This summer, seek out art-first hand. Be prepared for a surprise! AA!