As my 15-year-old son practices almost daily for the upcoming high school Shakespearean play, it reminded me of the value of the arts.

In Shakespeare’s time, people came to his shows to see what he would say about society, leaders, beliefs, love and war.  They came to see new views on the lives they were living.  They came to think.

Shakespeare shared very human messages in his dramatic prose, including the fact that we are all more alike than different.  In The Merchant of Venice he wrote, “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.”

Actress Stella Adler said, “The word theatre comes from the Greeks.  It means the seeing place.  It is the place people come to see the truth about life and the social situation.”

Art reflects life.  And it allows us to see the universal stories we are all living.

It also allows us to be creative.  See things from another side.  Connect the dots.  An engineer is a better engineer if she colours outside the lines.

Whether it’s reading, drawing, singing, acting, dancing, playing an instrument or some other combination, the arts are so much more than a pastime.  A compulsory credit.  A night out.

Actor and singer Brian Stokes Mitchell said, “That’s the magic of art and the magic of theatre: it has the power to transform an audience, an individual, or en masse, to transform them and give them an epiphanal experience that changes their life, opens their hearts and their minds and the way they think.”

How can you add some art into your weekend, your school curriculum, your family memories?  Can you see a local play?  Visit a gallery?  Sing at an open mic?  Pick up a guitar?  Watch an independent film?

May we find a story or feeling or note or vision that melts us, changes us, strengthens us, touches us and reminds us that life is a blank canvas and we are the art that creates the masterpiece.