Today is Independence Day, and although the USA isn’t perfect, I am grateful to be an American. It is easy to take our liberty for granted, such as our freedom to create as artists, writers and musicians.
Recently, my daughter spent a college semester studying art and literature abroad in the beautiful Czech Republic. She was stunned to learn about the terrible repression that country had to endure throughout history.
Even the people’s rights to create, and think freely were restrained. Under the Nazi regime, artists, writers and musicians were monitored, and sometimes forbidden to produce their art completely. Modern styles of art were prohibited, and deemed Degenerate Art, a term adopted by the Nazis. Those identified as degenerate artists were subjected to sanctions, dismissed from teaching positions, and forbidden to exhibit or sell their art.
Later, the Nazi tyranny was replaced with proxy Soviet control of Czechoslovakia, and once again artists were regulated. Socialist Realism, sometimes called Communist Art, demanded that all writers and artists must depict the Soviet Society and the party’s goals in a positive way in order for the society to accept them. Under the Soviet law, an artist must be granted approval in order to produce his or her art. This continued until 1980.
While visiting the town of Olomouc, Czech Republic, my daughter met a ceramic potter who shared his personal story of being an artist during the days of Soviet Socialist Realism.
Petr Prochazka, aka Petr the Potter, was denied permission to be an artist. Nevertheless, he continued his craft in secrecy. Unable to buy clay or glazes, Petr humbly harvested his own clay from the riverbanks, developed his own glazes from crushed pigments, and made his own primitive kiln.
Petr’s perseverance paid off, and today he enjoys the freedom of owning his own studio and gallery. Petr’s story is just one of many. However, today the arts are flourishing within the Czech Republic. Painters, sculptors, writers, poets, musicians, architects, and filmmakers now take pleasure in the freedom to create.
While in Prague, my daughter and her college companions met novelist, playwright Ivan Klima.
After which, the students had the unique opportunity to work with the famous Czech graffiti street artist, One Point.
Lead by One Point, and with the city’s permission, the students designed and painted the exterior of a building in Prague. The building also happened to be One Point’s very own personal studio – what an experience.
Back at home here in Sun Valley, Idaho, our little sleepy resort town comes alive on the 4th of July…and with the All-American festivities, I will not take my freedom for granted.
“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.” ~William J. Clinton
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