"And the beat goes on......................."
Here's a gift from Santa Claus - a brief interview:
Barry: Thanks for sitting down with me. I know your big day is just around the corner.
Santa: Yes, yes, lots still to do, but somehow it always gets done every year. It's like producing a big play, or musical, or festival.
Barry: I was wondering where the arts fit into your work?
Santa: (chuckles). Why the arts are everywhere in Santa’s work. In the toys, their design and creation, and in the decorations, the wrapping, the gifts, the pageantry, the celebrations, the singing and the performances; in the story telling, the photos, the memories. And more than that - in the wonder, and awe; in the beauty and creativity. I exist because generation after generation of parents want their children to know and experience some magic. Am I so different from art? There wouldn’t be any Santa or Christmas without the arts. The arts are a big part of what it’s all about.
Barry: Then artists are part of all of that?
Santa: But of course. Artists are everywhere in my life.
Barry: You have a lot of help. The elves I mean. How many of them are artists?
Santa: (Ho Ho Ho). They’re all artists. Everyone of them. And beyond the elves, all my helpers out there in your world. Artists of all kinds who make the magic of the season happen. The season’s art is hard to miss. Every decorated tree in every house. Every song that is sung. Every card that is written. Every meal that is cooked. Every story that is told. The elves sing and dance while they create all year long.
Barry: In my field, we’re trying very hard to get arts education back in the schools. Do you have any advice for that?
Santa: (chuckles). You know little kids are all artists. They know that intuitively. Just ask them. They will tell you. Now some of them grow up and don’t want to admit they’re artists anymore, and some of them actually begin to doubt they are artists. But deep inside they know. I think its wonderful that you are trying to get arts education back in the schools, but perhaps you might think about spending some time and energy teaching the kids that it’s alright to think of themselves as artists - because they are. If you can somehow give them permission to shout this to the world, you might find after awhile that more of them will grow up allowing themselves to think as creative beings. And be more supportive of you. And you might also spend some energy convincing their parents that letting them be the artists they know themselves to be is healthy and helpful to them. Parents want the best for their kids. If you want arts in the schools, maybe you can start with their parents. If they demand it, it will eventually happen.
You might be surprised at how many of the letters I get are full of artwork - quite impressive too I might add. I should also mention that in all my travels (and you can imagine they are quite extensive), the greatest gallery and museum in the whole world is (can you guess?) - it’s the refrigerator. I see art created by the boys and girls and displayed (proudly) on the refrigerator doors in millions of homes all across the world. Lots of Christmas trees and renderings of me around this time of year.
Barry: We’re very heavily involved in Placemaking efforts in the arts. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Santa: (chuckles). Well, of course, the arts make a place better. And every place needs art. And so I think what you are doing there is wonderful. But it’s really not so much about the place as the people in those places, right? You know in my work I always focus on the kids.
Barry: There was a little controversy in the last week or so over some remarks that you are “white”. Did you catch that?
Santa: (smiles). I get a kick out of how important color seems to be to some of you. I’m part of the spiritual world. I live in people’s hearts and souls. I’m whatever color you want me to be, whatever color you see - white, black, brown, yellow, the red and green of the season. I’m even purple to some folks. I’m an idea, the better instinct of humankind. I’m about giving - especially to little children. You want to know what color I am - look in the mirror. I’m any color, and every color.
Barry: We are concerned in the arts with trying to help our people become better leaders? How might we do that?
Santa: Well I’m just an old man with a really good job. But it seems to me that being a good leader isn’t so hard, if that’s what you want to be. Just do what you know in your heart to be the right thing, and do it with conviction and passion, and I think people will see that and respect that and relate to it. And I suppose that it’s always wise to treat everybody with respect. Start there.
Barry: What do you think of technology and all the advances of late?
Santa: Oh, I think it’s wonderful. All kinds of fantastic new toys out there for all of you that aren’t little kids anymore. Many of my outside helpers are involved in dreaming up these wonderful toys and then helping me by building them. These toys show up on more and more lists of what kids want, you know.
Barry: Actually, Santa, they aren’t really toys. We’ve come to depend on these advances to do our work and live our lives. We need them.
Santa: You need air, and water, and food and shelter, and beyond that a sense of joy in your work, purpose, friends, family and love. The rest are toys that come and go, and sure, they make your life easier I guess (if you say so). But like the train set you yourself needed when you were eight years old that I brought you, there will be other toys to come. And your needs will change.
Barry: We’re also concerned with our declining audiences. What are your thoughts on what we can do?
Santa: (Ho Ho Ho) Your audiences aren’t declining. There are more people making art, being creative, seeing and enjoying art, looking for art, then ever. They may not be coming to you for their art as much as you would like, but then maybe you need to figure out how to get the art to them. Your world is pretty complex, with so many demands on your limited time, and so much you have to do, that people are finding other ways to have art in their lives. This technology you speak of - it is an unbelievable way to help you reach out to more people is it not? Why don’t you use it more? Or figure out other ways to share what you do? Now some folks may not want you to make any changes, while others do. Can’t you appeal to them all? Isn’t art a pretty big tent?
Barry: Have you had any recent “aha” moment?
Santa: I have the same “aha moment” all the time. Every time I hear little kids giggling, or I notice someone older who sees something of beauty, something that strikes their imagination and that person goes “wow” - and I think to myself that there is a lot to like in humankind; that the force for decency and good among humans is so strong, so much stronger than all the missteps people make, that life is good. I exist because of that force. Art does too doesn’t it?
Barry: We struggle Santa to pay for what we do, and it isn’t easy.
Santa: No, I am sure it’s not, but my own experience is that if you champion excellence, and open your doors as wide as you can, that people will come. Not every toy we build here works that well. We have to keep coming up with new toys, and make the old toys that everyone loves, even better. It’s a challenge, but the elves (the artists) never seem to tire of the challenge. A long time ago, I use to make all the toys myself. Now of course, there are so many more little boys and girls around the world, that I have become somewhat of an “administrator” I guess, but I remain an artist too, and I know that in both roles there is a never ending process of working and reworking and trying to make it all work. Easy? No, but worth it. People know that what you do is important. People value music, the theater, dance, paintings and sculpture, films, folk art. They sometimes forget just how much it adds to their lives, but they know. Maybe you need to spend more time showing them exactly what you need and what you will do with it. Don’t make it so general and boring.
Barry: We do lots of research Santa.
Santa: Me too. I ask the boys and girls what they want, and they tell me. Very specifically most of the time. Have you tried that?
Barry: Sometimes it’s discouraging Santa.
Santa: Hmmm. Yes I can see that. But do what I do - look into the faces of those who get the gifts you have to give, and you will see how much what you do is worth it. There simply isn’t time enough to question why it isn’t all easier. Don’t Quit. Isn’t that what you say? I also like a good cookie to fortify myself sometimes, but Mrs. Claus says I have to watch it or some of those chimneys will be too small for me. I just tell her the magic will make it work. And it does.
And now I really have to get back to work.
Barry: Checking the list, finding out who’s naughty and nice?
Santa: (Ho ho ho). You know little boys and girls aren’t really naughty. Oh yes sometimes rambunctious, sometimes curious, sometimes full of too much energy. But they have good hearts. The naughty and nice stuff is, I suspect, an invention of their parents to keep them a little compliant during the hustle and bustle of the season.
Barry: Merry Christmas Santa, and I should add Happy Chanukah (came early this year), Happy Kwanza and all the other greetings of the season too.
Santa: They’re all the same my son. They’re all celebrations of life and faith and belief; an exaltation of family and friendship and love -- and hope. Doesn’t really matter who says it or how it is said. The sentiment is what is important. Lots of people around the world celebrate Santa Claus because they know that whatever their beliefs are, “giving” is something that brings us together, makes us part of something bigger than ourselves, and, of course, the children, and that is what it is really all about. The arts are like that, aren’t they?
And here’s my gift to you: Little boys and girls believe in me. And so do their parents really, because they know my true nature --- just like little boys and girls love art, so do their parents. Even if you don’t sometimes believe it.
So a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings and love to you and everyone.
Ho Ho Ho!
And with that and a twinkle in his eye, he went outside to talk (it’s true) with Dasher and Dancer, and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen - and, of course, Rudolph --- and the interview was over.