By Alan Neff
Yes, I know this is a site about fashion. I write for it from time to time and help edit its copy. The Publisher, however, invited me to write about “inspiration,” without any qualifiers, so I thought about what – and who – came to mind when I focused on that word. It was a revealing exercise.
The first person who popped into my head was my spouse. Here we are at my Publisher, Rachel’s house during a fête a few years ago.
She founded and runs a theater company that works with at-risk youths and young adults, teaching them to make musical theater from their experiences. Young men and women in the state’s correctional facilities share their stories with each other, stories filled with abuse and neglect, and – still, somehow – hope. Stories that become the books and lyrics of musicals that these young people perform, taking each other’s roles, so they get outside themselves and into the heads and hearts of their peers. My spouse works long hours with other passionately committed artists and arts administrators. You can find her work HERE.
Then I thought of writers and other artists: Joseph Heller (Catch-22), John Barth (The Sotweed Factor), Nathanel West (Day of the Locust), Raymond Chandler (The Long Goodbye), Mark Twain (everything he ever wrote), Ludwig Von Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Rembrandt, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell…well, this list could get very long, so I’ll just break it off here. These people wrote or sang or painted stories and images I’ll never forget. They inspire me to try my hand at art, however modest the results.
And then I remembered Rosa Parks. She stands at the head of my list. Reflecting on her decision, she later wrote this: “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
“…the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” Coincidentally, Ms. Parks’ birthday is February 4. I invite you to celebrate it with me.
And while you’re celebrating Ms. Parks’ contribution, think of Ansel Adams, the pre-eminent outdoors photographer of his generation. His photos of Yosemite and other natural sites are breathtaking. During World War II, Adams photographed Americans interned at Manzanar because they were of Japanese descent. The photos are collected in “Born Free and Equal.” This fusion of art and humanism inspires me.