Beautifully Seen: how the arts can deepen relationships in re-imagining a different world

June 7, 2023
Kimberly Duong

by Kimberly Duong, Criminology Honours Major, 4th year at York University

Music is the “vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expressions of emotion.” Music’s visual qualities, the feeling arising from listening to music, and the sense of community evoked when collectively listening and witnessing a performance in a single moment bring people together in ways that can be emotional and healing.  

Music fosters connection: it allows us to share our feelings, ideas, and experiences to feel seen and heard. The Arts@Congress showcase used music to story-tell the novel reckonings and lessons from art making that unite whole communities to deepen further co-engagement and participants in re-imagining a radically different world. They employed the arts through a series of performances to reckon with and re-imagine the world. By using artistic expressions, we evoke a greater sense of collective empathy.   

At the showcase, one notable performance was a rap on the experiences of being a Black person in a world where anti-Black, oppression, and discrimination exist and persist. In this rap song, two lyrics stood out: ‘With the skin I am in, they are killing me’ and ‘My Blackness means more than another race.’ 

The room held still, enraptured. There was a sense of awe, not necessarily awestruck about the technical quality of the performance, although it was beautifully done, but amazed by the performance’s beautifully expressed emotions. The performed stories expressed the collective grief that Black people experience due to anti-Black racism and oppression and the trauma and pain therein. Instead of simply hearing about the experience of anti-Black racism, discrimination, and oppression, the performance gave the audience the opportunity to feel the performers’ emotions viscerally.  

Other performances included short films and videos, dance videos, and audio recordings. The programme illustrated understanding our diverse experiences and how we all experience the world differently but that, through these artistic expressions, we can bring whole communities together to deepen participation and co-engagement, celebrate further, and embrace our differences. Art brings people through its capacity to tell a community’s shared stories, form connections, inspire and explore differences, and transcend differences.  

Perhaps when art becomes more embedded, when we live in a community where art is alive, bountiful and accessible, and where art has brought people together – this is where we can imagine a world where everyone is beautifully seen. Exceptional performances at the Arts@Congress inspired awe and joy in the audience, fostering meaningful thought and action.