A renewed appreciation for culture
Rita Papazian
Norwalk-Citizen News

In a recent article in the New York Times, art critic Michael Kimmelman noted that in America, people visit museums; whereas in countries like Italy, they "live in them and can't live without them." This past Monday, antiquities were lost or damaged in the very destructive earthquake that devastated L'Aquila in the Aburzzo region of central Italy. According to reports, 300 were killed in the area, 28,000 "forced into tent villages and other temporary shelters."
Reflecting upon the disaster Milko Morichetti, a 39-year-old Italian art restorer said, "Without the culture that connects us to our territory, we lose our identity."


A few weeks ago, I traveled to France and Italy in one of those whirlwind 10-day tours in which I visited, Paris, Nice, Monaco, Assisi, Pisa, Florence and Rome. The pace and scope of my trip was quite overwhelming, but, mostly because I felt overwhelmed by the architectural beauty and historic significance of the buildings, structures and, of course, the Roman ruins that I observed on my trip. I returned home with one thought: How soon can I return?

More importantly, I came home thinking about the architectural beauty and landscape that created the settings for people living their daily lives and how such settings must factor into their lifestyles and reference for their own histories.
Our own cultures -- whether they trace back generations to European cultures, other regions in this country or even our present settings where we live -- are vital to our own existence on a daily basis.

In the Times article, a resident of L'Aquila told the reporter that it was "upsetting that people understand how beautiful L'Aquila is only when it's destroyed." Did it take an earthquake to open eyes?

While the centuries-old town of L'Aquila cannot be compared to our own towns and cities in America, we can open our own eyes to the importance of our own culture and the importance of maintaining and preserving these structures for posterity.

Just last week, local officials and residents flocked to the seasonal opening of Norwalk's Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum. During the evening visitors saw first-hand the restoration work in the library. The staff announced a variety of programs for adults and children this spring and summer that illustrates how this museum house continues to be a vibrant and significant historic site in the region.

This is a difficult economic time for everyone, but especially for nonprofits that rely on the generosity of the community. While this period may be financially difficult, it is also a time that we need to turn to culture to give us the sustenance that we need to bring balance into our lives. Personally, I have found myself disturbed by listening to all the economic woes and keep looking for ways to feed the soul. I see more movies at the art cinema and am reading more books than usual to escape the bad news.

I have become surprised with my loss of interest in listening and reading about the news. What is happening to the news magazines like Time and Newsweek? The graphics seem to be driving the information. In fact, the graphics are so prominent and the typeface so small that I find the text difficult to read and then when I accomplish the task -- and a task it has become -- I find the information not even worth reading. Who cares about the number 1 to 10 "Popularity Index," or the "Dignity Index where we learn that "Fox-affiliate TV reporter Michael Sheehan is accused of drunkenly crashing his car into a police horse, then he blames the horse."

Do we care to read Time magazine's Pop Chart where we learn what's "Shocking, Predictable or Shockingly Predictable, such as Samantha Ronson and Lindsay Lohan's split? Then, we have New York magazine's "The Approval Matrix" in which we read the weekly's "deliberately oversimplified guide to who falls where on our taste hierarchies." Here we learn that "'Topshop' opens at last" and New York is not joining the backlash.

What the heck does that mean, and do I care?

Maybe I feel this way because I'm getting older and time appears to be fleeting. I don't want to waste time with trivia, but to enrich my life with cultural endeavors and to enjoy the aesthetics of my surroundings -- the architecture, the landscape, the seascape -- but, especially I want to introduce my young grandchildren to the culture in their lives, through the books, the museums and the plays.

Two of my grandchildren saw a production of "Annie" at the K through 8 public school where their father is assistant principal. They loved the play and even saw a DVD of the film. During a recent visit I bought them the CD with the original cast.

"Annie" is the first Broadway play that their mother had seen when she was a little girl, so it is exciting for me to see how these two little boys, ages 3 and 4 have fallen in love with this Broadway classic. Zachary and Cameron march around the living room singing "It's a Hardknock Life," "Tomorrow" and "You're Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile."

The other day as we sat eating dinner together, I leaned over to Zachary and whispered, "Zachary, you know, you're not fully dressed without a smile."

Zachary looked at me with the strangest look as if to say, "Nana, don't bother me, I'm eating my pizza."

Rita Papazian is a freelance writer who has covered Norwalk extensively. She can be reached at ritapap@comcast.net .


Copyright 2009 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.