Cole Urges Students to Discover Life-saving Art

September 18, 2000

Donning a pin and coffee mug with the slogan "Art Saves Lives," Dr. Carolyn Cole, Oklahoma Baptist University professor of English and 2000 Distinguished Teacher award recipient, encouraged students to discover this kind of art during the university's chapel service Wednesday, Sept. 13.

"I wear this pin often because it says succinctly what I believe about the place of arts in my life and culture at large," Cole said. "Art brings to our consciousness what is often too far removed for us to know or care about."

Humans do not live by art alone, Cole said, but it does allow for a more precise sense of life.

"It jars us out of our comfort zone and can help to cultivate a moral imagination that prepares us to face the challenges of life rather than hide from them," she said.

Cole explored connotations of the statement "Art Saves Lives" throughout her message. Art in one sense, she said, records the present moment in time for future generations.

"The artist does two things at once," Cole said. "She creates something out of her own imagination and saves a moment of her own life and through that creative act, preserves a moment in the life of her culture.

"Archeologists, anthropologists, and historians, for all the value of their disciplines, don't do for us what literature can do. The most direct way to get to the spirit of the a culture is to study its art."

Art can also take the form of a saving grace from troubles, she said.

"Students tell me that sometimes art saves them from loneliness," she said. "Offers comfort and kinship."

Cole also told students that art shapes the lives of not only those who produce it, but those who observe it. But, we must be careful to explore many types of art, she said.

"A steady diet of pop culture alone, even Christian pop-culture, is like trying to live on chocolate and popcorn," Cole said.

Character shaping and development of a moral imagination should be the rewards of exploring art.

"The person who would develop a moral imagination does not flinch when you front it with reality and all of its complexity and frequent ugliness," she said. "Literature offers us a place to get to know and perhaps care about people who frighten or threaten us, a kind of dress rehearsal for real involvement with them.

"This is the kind of art that saves lives."