It was last spring that Chris Buchignani started a recurring Town & Gown Magazine on the theme of cultural conservation. Chris asked me to contribute this month on Arts Fest. Here’s a bit of that, which appears in full at Town & Gown:
We celebrate Arts Fest because it’s a form of living nostalgia. In the midst of our togetherness in one of America’s happiest places, and in getting away from the sort daily life that so often isolates rather than unites us, we encounter bits of our past that we love. Arts Fest is like an invitation to consciously recognize the things we miss, and bring them back into our daily lives.
On your trip back for Arts Fest this (or any) year, make time to encounter or reacquaint yourself with these things. Visit and learn the story of Old Willow as you cross Old Main lawn. Carve out a few hours for an early morning hike up Mount Nittany. Buy the button. Sleep in a dorm. A slower pace offers the chance to fondly remember all that’s changed and cherish how much yet remains.
In this light, Arts Fest is “itself a work of art” as former Penn State Trustee Ben Novak writes. “In order to enjoy the festival itself as art,” he continues, “one needs but a quiet time of recollection and a good tankard of ale. Then one can summon up again the best of the sights and sounds and smells and tastes and feelings of the festival week. One can savor each one, turning it over carefully in one’s mind, converting what might have been only a momentary thrill into a lasting impression. After all, isn’t that what art is—the converting of something momentary, like a fleeting smile on a woman’s face, into something lasting, like the Mona Lisa?”
This year during Arts Fest, no matter how fleeting or lasting your time, try to consciously recognize the sort of people, places, and experiences that make you happiest, and bring them with you when you leave. You might find a new spirit, itself like a work of art, animating your daily life.