By Alanna Klein
“Art”: a single word that can be construed in hundreds of different ways. Of course, most people consider art to be anything located within the walls of a museum or gallery – a painting, a sculpture, an artistic film. As an art history major, I typically search for art in these traditional museums, galleries, exhibitions etc. – places that are recognized for their reputable and prestigious art. I spend hours in museums aimlessly wandering the halls of a multi-acre museum, if visiting a new city I will ensure I see every esteemed gallery, and throughout my studies, I search through textbooks and preserved prints to analyze work.
However, my appreciation for art evolved this past winter break when I traveled to India. Embracing my prior predilection of museums, I scoured books and websites for the best museums in Jaipur and Udaipur. However, I was left nearly empty handed and was instead urged to wander the streets, temples, palaces, markets, work factories, and parks. Of course I was disappointed, as for me, art is a lens into a culture’s history. I can learn more from viewing a painting than reading a textbook – art exposes habits, societal norms, family traditions, activities, events, clothing, food, etc., facets that create the essence of any culture. However, I adhered to my guide’s words and followed his recommendations, and, what I found was far more powerful than anything I could find behind the pristine walls of a famous museum or popular gallery. I was immersed in a sea of vibrant colors, potent smells, endless smiles, captivating people, and unique activities. I felt as if I was living in a painting instead of studying one. I was present and I could feel the culture and passion of the people surrounding me. From this experience, I have changed what the word “art” means to me.
I realize now that art is anything that can touch someone. Art instills a feeling inside the viewer. Art transports the viewer to a time or place or emotion. Art creates a memory. For me, I am fortunate in that I now know that I can find art in any corner of any city, park, or room, and that all it takes to garner an internal feeling is for to open our eyes and our senses and be present in the world in which we live, for art and beauty surrounds us at every moment.