I recently responded to a jury summons and sat for half a day listening to the “randomly chosen ones” in the jury box tell about their interests, arrest records, family history and hobbies.
I started to feel awkward and afraid that I might be the only one in the room who was an artist and one of the few who had never been arrested. If I was sent to the jury box, I would have to reveal, under oath, that I read art magazines and self-help books, I have a brother with schizophrenia and my hobbies included the Dumpster Beautification Project and tagging sidewalks with chalk drawings.
Although sometimes awkward in public, I have come to appreciate my creative mind as a gift instead of a bizarre navigation tool that holds reality by a thread. Between my dreams and my waking imagination, I am regularly entertained by life. Through the help of therapy, I can appreciate the fact that I have never been bored, even during times of depression and “artist’s block.”
In my quest to better understand myself, I enjoy reading about neuroscience and the study of the brain – although, admittedly, I often don’t understand some of the language. Recently, I read a Dartmouth study that debunked the popular theory that the “right brain” governs creative activity. The new research suggests the brain is far more vast and interconnected than such simple explanations. Imagine that.
Another brain study from Sweden shows creative people had less densely packed D2 receptors in the thalamus than less creative people. These dopamine receptors process information before it reaches conscious thought. These receptors are also known to be involved in schizophrenia. Healthy people in creative professions are more likely to have family members with schizophrenia than less creative people, suggesting some kind of genetic or biological link between the two.
A new scientific field is neuroaesthetics, a study of the nervous system for the contemplation and creation of a work of art. But unraveling the beauty of art only shows us what the brain finds pleasing. This is a mystery that artists have uncovered for thousands of years. It is taught as color theory and principles of design in schools. Just ask an artist why the Mona Lisa is so compelling. Some science just doesn’t make any sense to me.
While I sat in the courtroom for four hours, I thought about how lucky I was to know so many creative people in Durango. Then I wondered why they weren’t at the courthouse. I thought about the courage it takes to continually make art and music and how vulnerable it feels to show it and perform it. I thought about how to decorate the walls of the courtroom with a variety of black-and-white fabric patterns. Horizontal and bold would be best suited for a room with fluorescent lights. Colored patterns just didn’t make sense in an environment full of so many chairs. Before I was excused from jury duty, I looked around and wondered if the other people had as much fun as I did.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Sandra Butler is the Education Coordinator at the Durango Arts Center.