If you’re familiar with The Office, then you probably know the scene where Michael Scott goes to Pam’s art show. After failing to answer a college student’s questions about the future of his industry, Michael’s faith in his company — and job — has been shaken to the core.
Meanwhile, almost no one has shown up to his employee Pam’s art show, and she grows more discouraged and dejected over the course of the night. All of the sudden, Michael bursts into the gallery. As he looks at Pam’s paintings, which depict objects inside and outside of their office building, Michael is swept away.
Pam’s art asserts the beauty of Michael’s world, and Michael’s love for that art asserts the beauty and value of Pam’s work. “This is our building,” says Michael, and for a moment, it really does feel like ours. If someone tells you that The Office isn’t art, this scene is proof they’re wrong.
Television is an amazing art form; it allows us to build feelings for characters in a gradual manner that feels organic and at times intensely emotional. However, one of the downsides of television is that we as consumers can’t really fill Michael’s role in the artistic process that easily. Sure, you can support The Office by buying a DVD or piece of merchandise, but you’re so far removed from the creators of the art that it doesn’t feel personal or even significant.
Such personal, significant interactions are the backbone of the local arts scene. Wichita’s artists tend to be extremely warm and approachable; every time I’ve been to Final Friday, I’ve ended up in at least one wonderful conversation with an artist about their work, inspiration, or life in general.
Artists understand that most students who pass through the galleries can’t afford to purchase their work. By simply showing up and engaging with the art, you offer your time and energy — two things artists appreciate immensely. Chances are you’ll be moved enough by one piece of art or another that you’ll take note of an artist’s name and, sometime in the future, come back to support them in whatever way you can.
Though breaking free of the bedroom or party scene for a night to go experience art might seem like an insignificant move, it’s truly foundational to the survival of a city’s identity. Local businesses and artists give Wichita personality that stands outside a national, commercial framework.
Every Final Friday, the city opens its doors; unsupported, those doors will start closing, or at the very least, start looking very similar. Wichita is our city. Whether you feel that at the bottom of your heart or you feel like someone simply passing through, there’s something out there in the Final Friday galleries that will make you appreciate the value of this city.