My mother believes in the power of art, that it broadens our minds and enhances our overall life experience. While we were growing up, she saw to it that we kids were exposed to live theatre, concerts, orchestras, and museums as the family budget could afford. And it didn’t stop there. I took piano lessons starting in first grade through my sophomore year in high school. Both of my little sisters did too, and my brother took guitar lessons. For me, piano lessons and the practice that followed were a dreaded chore. My teacher frightened me and there were umpteen things I would rather have been doing. Suffice it to say, I did not grow up to be a great pianist. My brother’s guitar career was quite short, sacrificed at the altar of distraction. My social butterfly sister found piano much less engaging than her friends. But our baby sister was a different story.
Claire loved playing piano. Even as a toddler, she pounded away at the keys, her little face full of passion. The whole family was glad when she started lessons and created more melodic sounds. She learned to read music quickly. As soon as she was home from lessons, she went straight to the piano to practice. Mom never had to hound her about practicing like she did the rest of us. Claire practiced and played for pleasure. It was fun for her, not work at all. By the time she was in junior high, she was creating her own compositions.
Thanks to Mom, all four of us read music. Only Claire, however, mixed love with that skill. The rest of us found our artistic strengths in other arenas. I write. My brother is an entrepreneur. My other sister sings. But Claire’s story compared with the rest of our sibling complacency about music lessons is a perfect word picture for the point I hope to make today.
You’ve heard the old adage, “Practice makes perfect?” To an extent, I believe that is true. John Ruskin was a 19th Century writer in London, England. He once said, “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” I believe love makes a bigger difference even than practice in achieving excellence. Claire excels in piano because she loves it. Practice is not a duty but a joy. As a result, her art has matured into masterpiece quality.
Denton has been astir recently about our own evolving masterpiece, downtown. Are we doing it right? Is the emergence over the past twenty years from sleepy town center to dynamic entertainment district a good thing? Are we truly creating a masterpiece or just throwing paint at the canvas and making a mess in the process? I believe the answer is in the heart of the matter.
I think of the people investing in Denton’s downtown as business artists. Like the hundreds of artists among us, they rise up with a dream to build something beautiful, enjoyable. They sink their skill, time, money, and yes, love into their projects. Collectively, their creations change what was here before.
The rest of us look at the impact all this creating is having on downtown. As with all art, we like some things we see and are not crazy about others. What we must keep in mind, however, is that a masterpiece is always underway. Some of the business art will stick around for years while some will be tweaked or painted over completely.
Downtown Denton is beautiful. Life has unfolded here for more than 150 years, and life means change. It is our only absolute constant. Businesses have come and gone and will continue to do so. For the sake of my analogy, let’s consider all this ongoing evolution as practice. If it stopped at practice, Denton would be just another spot on the map, an unremarkable composition. But what is different in Denton is that we have that extra ingredient at work on top of practice. We love our town. Likewise, these business artists cherish their creations and this place where they have brought them to life.
Like my little sister loves piano, we love Denton’s downtown. These business artists are not far away corporate entities gobbling up our essence and swallowing it whole. They are here. It’s their town, too. Together we are practicing, investing our collective skills with love, devotion even, in the ongoing creation of a masterpiece: our original, independent Denton.