The artist is not a special type of human being, but every human being is a special type of artist.” (Art Scholar Ananda Coomaraswamy)

Jonny Watson’s PS article ( Sept 2014) nails the problem with regard to ‘education’ in general. The affirmation of the individual is the sine qua non. That is what education ought to be about in art… or anything else. You treat kids as God’s children of infinite worth and there is a chance you may give them a regard for themselves and others against which no amount of cultural brainwashing via media or television will prevail. Much of what passes for culture is about who we think we are, imagine we are or want others to imagine we are.

Our own efforts as muralists have been directed to helping heal a people by depicting their experiences on gable walls. In this manner, we endeavoured to help them to reflect on a shared history and to ponder the price they had to pay for democratic rights. Not to have commemorated the struggle in this way would have meant that we failed in our vocation as artists for, make no mistake about it, art really is a vocation. It is most unlikely any reasonable person would endure its vicissitudes, its hardships or its social stigma if this were not so. Art too has its martyrs and many of them. In the world of art, and increasingly so, I regret to say, it is the sincere and the honest and those with some degree of moral integrity who go to the wall first.

Bad art done with a bad heart can do no good for anyone, least of all for the one who does it. The making of art, by its very nature, is healing. We, who teach this in our workshops, can attest to this simple fact.

It is for this reason, if for no other, that we believe the arts should be and must be properly cared for in a sane society that has any interest at all in the spiritual well-being of its citizens.

Art can help to undo some of the suffering inflicted on all of us by the myriad forms of socially accepted violence. “Man does not live by bread alone”… and to ignore this revelation is to degrade him. Indeed, it is from the opposite belief that all our woes arise.

Will Kelly

Will Kelly is one of the “Bogside Artists.”

See also a UTV report of the recent event jointly hosted by Contemporary Christianity, Irish Churches Peace Project and Garden of Remembrance on Art, Faith and Peace – The Bogside Artists: the Story Behind the Murals. Click here to view.