What do Kerry Washington, Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte and Paul Abdul all have in common? Each one of those entertainers is featured in the splashy coffee table book, Art & Soul. Photographer Brian Smith took pictures of over 200 celebrities and Robin L. Bronk, CEO of the Creative Coalition, asked the celebs to write down what art means to them.
The answers ranged from tongue in cheek (“Art is fart without the ‘F’”, Adrian Grenier) to poignant (“Art is love,” Spike Lee). A portion of the proceeds from sales of the book will go to the Creative Coalition’s non-profit programs that expose young people to art.
The team behind the book put together a star-studded event Tuesday night at a sleek bi-level Sony store in Manhattan. Actor Giancarlo Esposito (School Daze, Breaking Bad) is not featured in the book, but he was on hand at the event as a Creative Coalition board member.
“Art changes young people’s lives. There are studies that show when children are immersed in art, their math scores go up. They are learning to be confident and curious,” explained Esposito when asked about donating to art education in such tough economic times. “We have a choice right now. We can either make guns or we can make deeply profound and creative human beings. ”
Esposito was raised with an appreciation for the arts. His mother was an opera singer and his father was a stage technician at the opera (that’s where they met). Some of Esposito’s earliest childhood memories are of watching his mother sing on stage.
Emmy Award winning actress Lynn Whitfield (The Josephine Baker Story, Eve’s Bayou) was also exposed to art at a young age. “My father put together the Baton Rouge Community Chorus. It was basically community theater. They put on shows like Porgy & Bess. But I really fell in love when I watched million dollar movies with my grandmother,” said Whitfield who is featured in the Art & Soul book. “I saw all of these beautiful, glamorous, amazing women and I wanted to be that. I’ve never wanted to be anything else but an actress. Well, I did want to be a ballerina, but that hurt too much.”
Whitfield stressed the importance of exposing children to art because you never know who could be the next Mozart, Picasso or some other creative genius. In the foreword to the book Robin L. Bronk says “Investing in the arts during these tough economic times can ensure that America doesn’t lose a generation of creative talent to our temporary economic woes. ”
The Creative Coalition wants everyone (not just celebrities) to help the cause and you don’t need money to do it. Go to the Art & Soul site and add your name, picture and a brief note about why it’s important to support the arts. The goal is to have 100,000 names on the petition to give to Congress.