I’ve seen far too many articles in the past month purporting that 2016 was “the worst year.” I won’t dispute that the majority of the news I read this year was majorly disappointing, if not downright scary, but I will argue that it was one of the best years in the arts I have ever seen. It’s an exciting time to be an arts and entertainment editor.
Nationally, it was a fabulous year for television writing (particularly if you’re plugged into the world of sci-fi) and for music (particularly if you’re tuned into the world of rap and hip-hop). In fact, one of the reasons 2016 ached so badly is because we lost so many great musicians. But even with their parting albums, the likes of David Bowie and Leonard Cohen remind us that amazing art goes on forever, even without the artist.
Here on the Island, the focus on great art is only intensified. This summer, I shook hands with Pulitzer prizewinner Junot Diaz at a gallery event, and then was serenaded by John Forte of the Fugees. I interviewed blues legend Taj Mahal, and stood before hip-hop great Talib Kweli. Even on a December evening at the Ritz, or a Saturday foray to the library, or a quick jaunt to the Workshop Gallery (with whom we share a parking lot) to ask someone to move a car, I’m blown away by the extent of our local talent, which overflows in the Calendar section every week.
I don’t want to suggest something so trite as that we need darkness to appreciate the light, but there is a connection between great art and dark times. It’s why Picasso’s “Guernica” is one of the best-known paintings of all time. It’s why Bob Dylan, who rose to fame with his 1960s protest songs, just won a Nobel Prize in literature. It’s why we still read the 74-year-old diary of a 13-year-old Jewish girl.
People also seek refuge in dark times, and they tend to wind up in places like Martha’s Vineyard, where not only can you feel safe leaving your keys in your car, but maybe even feel safe enough to create something. We’re inconceivably lucky. So call 2016 the ugliest year you’ve ever seen, but in 2017 go pick up a pen, a paintbrush, a guitar, even your own feet — and create something beautiful.