The Art We Are Making and The Legacy We Are Leaving


I recently read the book Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. It is a novel that charts the journey of a Lithuanian family who are ripped from their home by Soviet officers in 1941 and taken, along with thousands of others, to a work camp in Siberia. 


The main character, Lina, is a sixteen year old artist. She documents her ordeal through her drawings. She finds solace in sketching the unspeakable. 


Although the characters in the book are fictional, it is true that those who lived through these horrific years of forced labor camps used art, music and journaling as a means of self-expression. They also buried drawings and diaries in the soil, capsules that would be found by others many years later. 


This was not without huge risk. To share these truths through any means, creatively or otherwise, was considered anti-Soviet and carried the harshest penalties. 


And still people created. 


In the worst conditions, in the cruelest captivity, people used creativity as a coping mechanism and as a translator. They did not know if their buried art would ever be found, or what the consequences might be if it were discovered by the wrong people. They created anyway. 


This makes so much sense to me. Part of my mission is to create the art that is found in the quiet, defiant spaces. The art that is made in spite of. The creativity that is born knowing full well that it may be erased or caged, but takes its first breath anyway.


Reading this book brought my own words back to me. 


We are living through the most incredibly challenging times. We are witnessing so many preventable tragedies on a global scale and some days it feels like the hits just keep on coming. 




There were others before us. Others who knew suffering and some of the worst crimes against humanity. Others who endured long years, often lifetimes, at the merciless hands of corrupt governments and dictators. 


Part of their legacy was their creativity. The words and images and sculptures they left us with. The souvenirs of their struggles that remind us of the ways in which our stories can never be stamped out when we honor our living with our art. 


It doesn't matter if it is destroyed or taken. It only matters that it is made. 


It has never felt more necessary to create. It has never felt more necessary to notice and nurture the threads of our individual tapestries, to look for the shy beauty and the soft chinks of light that always find a way to filter through. 


Part of my daily defiance is reading. These golden moments of turning pages and filling up on words have provided me with both sanctuary and inspiration, two very necessary spaces that mean the difference between running on empty and feeling refueled. 


I believe in us. I believe in the art we are making and the legacy we are leaving. I believe in the history we are shaping and the ways that the next World will be informed and influenced by how we create today, in these uncertain hours, in these strange and difficult years. 


Sometimes sanctuary is in the soil. In the seeds we plant and in the art we bury. In the beautiful understanding that fighting for freedom can often look like a solitary moment of quiet creative joy. It trickles out. And it pours out. And it is endless and timeless.


Photo by Lavi Perchik on Unsplash