Greetings. The week between Christmas and New Year's is a wonderful time to explore the world around you. To check out a performance, watch a documentary film, visit a picturesque or historic town off the beaten track, or wander through a museum close to home. And, in the process, to discover a fresh perspective on the world around you. A perspective that could provide new energy and insight as you and your colleagues approach the year ahead. With this in mind, I love to use the end of the year to visit some of my favorite museums. And, here in D.C., we have a lot to choose from. But I'm sure that there are also great museums close to where you live or visit.
So yesterday I took our children and a friend from Sweden to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art to explore it's remarkable folk art collection. And what struck me most was the sense of vision, originality, and accessibility of this work. But that makes sense, because "folk art" is really art by regular "folks" who have little or no formal training and whose work reflects a fascinating fusion of traditional craft, deep-rooted social values, and often a desire to shine a light on an important issue of their time or their understanding of faith. In addition to the art, the design of this exhibit also attempts to frame the artists' perspectives with quotes on the purpose of art in life and society, the act of creating something new, and the artist's place in the world. And it even includes a compelling quote from the inventor Charles Kettering who wrote (though originally referring to business and innovation):
"Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier."
Not a bad thought to put on your wall as you get ready for the year ahead!
Among several galleries of thought-provoking pieces, one particular work seems to catch everyone's attention. It's called "The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly," and it is the only work ever done by the artist James Hampton. Over fourteen years, he transformed a rented garage into "a heavenly vision" of a "spiritual environment" suitable for God's return to earth. It's really a statement of one man's great faith in God and hope for salvation that includes 180 unique pieces, based on his interpretation of teachings from the Old and New Testaments, build around a central throne. And it's all constructed from discarded materials covered with shimmering silver and gold foils. Whether you are a religious person, or not, the result is striking and inspiring (see below–or better yet, visit the museum in person).
We succeed in business and in life by being open to genius in the world around us, and by seeing the vision and passion that artists of all types bring to the work they create. What vision and passion will you bring to your work in the year ahead? Maybe this is the perfect week to discover it.
Cheers and have a inspiring week of work, play, family, friends, and exploring!