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An essay: Why the Artist is hero of the New Age

In a decaying society, Art, if it is truthful, must reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, Art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it.
-Ernst Fischer

By Khari Allen Lee

for NOLA Art House Music

Why do we do it? Why continue when the darkness seems to rise like a great tide from the deep? Why, when the essence of art is forced into profit margins rather than allowed its true space,
rising redolently, harmoniously, boundlessly from the joy spring of the human soul? Why, when understanding, awareness, appreciation, support and the highest levels of true collective cocreation
and in-joy-ment can too often seem as sparse as water in a desert?

Because we must. Because those of us who have been called must heed this call or be damned until we do. Because, in pursuing our calling, we see the possibilities. In our artistry, in our
creativity, we have touched the realm of our dreams. In this realm — one of potentialities, teeming with gratitude, peace and abundance for all — our dear human family basks in the glorious light of
its deep interconnection.

As artists, it is our charge to use our art to better the society. Taking a close, honest look, we can clearly see Art and ‘art’ (i.e., the commercially motivated, the manufactured, the mass-produced,
the self-aggrandizing) reflecting decay all around us. Through comparison and examination of much of the day’s works with the enduring works of past artists, creators and prime movers, that
onerous, yet seemingly obligatory part of Mr. Fischer’s insight appears fulfilled in abundance.

As artists, we must now more consciously be about “showing the world as changeable.” We must, now more than ever, “personify a new mythology,” as the inimitable Joseph Campbell
would say. It is our charge to embody the one-world citizen, to be the harbingers of the New (Aquarian) Age and her new human, Homo Universalis. It is our charge to sound the trumpet, as
it were, to be the heroes and heroines leading the way.

In order to be this change we wish to see in the world, it seems we must begin by holding an exceedingly eclectic world-view and a particularly perspicacious awareness of the cultural-historical-
mythological-spiritual multiplicities of the human family. It is with such an enlightened world-view that we can more deeply personify and accentuate our commonalities and the ties that bind. We must be the singularly co-creative, illuminated interconnects that will help humanity and Our Great Mother Earth to fulfill themselves and their ages-old relationship.

To quote Mr. Campbell anew, it is the function of the Artist/Art to “make visible the radiance of eternity.” Maybe setting this seemingly celestial aim will put us more in line with our desired
dream, a soulful society of peace, unity and true abundance. However it may be, let us step forth with the full powers of our love and creativity. Let us be those about whom our children’s
children will sing the story of stories. Let us more fully engage our calling, our charge to newness. As so mellifluously intoned by the vocal ensemble Sweet Honey In the Rock, ‘We are
the ones we’ve been waiting for!’ Why do we do it? Because, as we engage our calling, as we be the change, it must follow that we will see the change.

About the author:

Saxophonist, multi-instrumentalist, educator, composer Khari Allen Lee earned his B.S. in Music Education from Auburn University in 2002 and went on to attend the Berklee College of Music as a scholarship recipient. In the spring of 2005, Lee graduated from Berklee with an Artist Diploma in Professional Music and was chosen to become a member of the University of New Orleans Louis Armstrong Quintet. He earned his Masters of Music in 2007 and continued to work in the historic Crescent City as an active, versatile performer and passionate educator with groups and artists including Delfeayo Marsalis, the Treme Brass Band, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Irvin Mayfield, and as a member of the faculty at Tulane University and the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. After a two-year term as Director of Music at the International School Moshi, Tanzania, East Africa at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, Lee has readily and resolutely returned to New Orleans, the faculty of the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts and the rich creative atmosphere of one of the world’s most original and inspired cities to continue his soulful work.




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