Finding a new passion

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Long-time readers will note something odd about this issue. Well, maybe several things. But what I have in mind is that our cover story was written by me.

I don’t do that very often, you may have noticed. So what moved me to do so this month?

My personal story, in brief: I played piano throughout my school years, but pretty much put it aside once I got to college, and certainly after I started working for a living.

Furthermore, I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, the home of the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which I attended regularly while growing up, mesmerized by the world’s finest young pianists performing the most beautiful repertoire.

At first, I became inspired and dreamed of becoming a concert pianist myself. But as I grew up, and came to realize the incredible talent and dedication required for such a profession, I wised up and turned my sights elsewhere.

But this summer, I returned to Fort Worth to sit once again in the competition audience and let the long days of music waft over me. And it was there that I first learned about the Piano at Peabody program, from Rabbi Warren Stone of Temple Emanuel in Kensington, who happened to be sitting behind me!

Intrigued to learn there was a week-long “piano camp” for adults each summer in nearby Baltimore, I told our managing editor, Barbara Ruben, I would like to “cover the story” myself.

The result is not only this month’s feature, but my return to regularly playing the piano after decades of inaction.

For years, the Beacon has reported on studies finding that older adults who start to learn, or return to, various creative arts experience not only personal satisfaction, but also use less medication, make fewer doctor visits,have reduced falls, and enjoy better health overall.

And readers have approached me many times over the years, including this summer, to tell me how they or their parent blossomed in later life, discovering a new talent or developing a new skill that brought them great pleasure and fulfillment. 

And so, we at the Beaconhave decided to embark on a completely new venture for us — a year-long program to inspire our readers to take up a new artistic endeavor in the coming months, and then, come next spring, enter some of your creations in a regional competition for recognition and prizes.

We call it “The Beacon Celebration of the Arts.”  For a variety of reasons, we have chosen to highlight not music or dance, but rather four types of hands-on creative work that we hope will appeal to the broadest number of people:

— Painting: of any type on any medium

— Sculpture/3-D Art:including sculpture in wood, stone or metal, as well as fired clay/pottery, fiber art, found object art and any other three-dimensional work

— Photography: including images of people, places or objects, as well as abstract and other images manipulated by  digital means

— Poetry

Each month, we hope to present stories about local individuals who have taken this step and want to share how it has affected their life. (Please write to us and let us know about you!)

We also will be helping spread the word about the numerous venues throughout the region that offer instruction in these arts and provide opportunities to engage in them. 

After giving you a few months to learn about these arts and develop your skills in them, we will then solicit your best new works for a regional competition to be judged by professional artists.

Winners will receive awards, cash prizes, and have their work exhibited. In addition, photos of all artists and their works will be published in a special “Celebration of the Arts” section to be printed in the Beacon next fall.

While many of you may already be quite proficient in one or more of these fields, and a number may even be professional artists, we particularly want to encourage amateurs to take a local or online class in their chosen area(s) and explore the possibilities.

We will be promoting this project through partnerships with area museums, art schools, recreation departments, retirement communities, galleries and more, as well as through monthly articles and ads in the Beacon.

We are especially pleased to announce a partnership with the Maryland Federation of Art (MFA), which will be providing us access to their excellent website for soliciting entries in the competition phase.

While there is a modest fee of $10 for an entry, entering will entitle you to a one-year membership in MFA (new members only; value: $70), and enable you to set up your own “gallery” online — a kind of mini-website, where you can share your artwork and poetry with friends.

Entries will also be archived on the site, and will be visible to the general public once the winners are announced.

In my eagerness to share this exciting news with you, I have probably jumped the gun a bit. We are still ironing out some details and developing the rules for the competition. And we are only beginning to solicit partners and sponsors for this rather hefty year-long undertaking.

So, there will be more to tell you as time goes on. But I wanted to share the news and whet your appetites for what I believe will be a very exciting and invigorating project.

In the meantime, I encourage you to experiment with a new craft: Take a painting or sculpture class at a local recreation center. Take a new look at the world through the camera on your phone. Or simply pick up a pen and shape what you’re thinking about, or have recently experienced, into a poem.

In short, let yourself blossom in your own unique way.

For more information about our Celebration of the Arts, read upcoming issues of the Beacon, email us at arts@thebeaconnewspapers.com, or call us at (301) 949-9766. 

Potential partners and sponsors are also encouraged to contact us to learn how you can participate. We look forward to hearing from you!