I’ve been meaning to write this post for a few months now, and I felt today was the day, for Dr. King. This is the story of how a painting changed the way I think about the world, and how art can shape the mindset of a child.
This past November, I had a print re-framed and hung it in the living room of my new house. I had it done by McKay Bricker in Kent, and they did a beautiful job:
This print was given to me by the artist, Arthur Rayford, when I was maybe 7 years old. I had tagged along with my mother, a reporter for the local paper, as she went to interview him. Mr. Rayford was a staple of the art scene in DeLand, Florida, my hometown, for many years; you can see some of his other works here. He gave me this print (which has a small scratch on it) on two conditions: that I get it framed, and that I send him a Christmas card. I did both, and I’m glad to have the picture still with me and now looking its best.
It was another piece by Mr. Rayford that I actually want to talk about today. DeLand is a small college town, pretty middle class, and pretty diverse. There are some run-down parts of town. One corner in particular, I remember locking my doors as we drove by, maybe even as we went to meet Mr. Rayford.
Imagine my surprise when I saw that Mr. Rayford had painted a picture of that exact corner.
And he painted it in a way that is expressly familiar and comfortable. This was his home; he knew these people. A place that to me was foreign and a little scary was transformed into a simple tableau of people just living their lives.
I know it doesn’t seem like much, but for a little white girl in Catholic school, it was an epiphany. Not everyone lived the way I lived. As I grew older, I saw this truth again in many different ways, especially when I studied in Spain for a few months. And I think for Dr. King’s dream to come true, this understanding is essential. We all have different backgrounds, and may live in different ways, but it is possible for all peoples to live together and be friends. We just need a little less fear and anger, and a little more understanding and empathy. Arthur Rayford has now passed away, but he lives on in his beautiful art, and the impact it made on me and many others. After all, isn’t that the point of art itself?