As a newlywed couple, my wife and I began our journey with very little. After Judy and I got married in the summer of 1983, after college, we moved to Connecticut for Judy to pursue her master’s degree in marriage counselling. I taught at a special education school and painted at home. We had a tight budget and often had to ration our food (lots of tuna cans!) just to get through the week.
One evening, I sat alone, waiting for Judy to come home to our small apartment, worried about how we are going to afford the rent, to pay for necessities over the weekend. Our refrigerator was empty and I had no cash left.
Then Judy walked in with a bouquet of flowers. I got really upset. “How could you think of buying flowers if we can’t even eat!” I remember saying, frustrated.
Judy’s reply has been etched in my heart for over thirty years now. “We need to feed our souls, too.”
“We need to feed our souls, too.”
The irony is that I am an artist. I am the one, supposedly, feeding people’s souls. But in worrying for tomorrow, in the stoic responsibility I felt to make ends meet, to survive, I failed to be the artist. Judy was the artist that day: she brought home a bouquet.
I do not remember what we ended up eating that day, or that month (probably tuna fish.)But I do remember that particular bouquet of flowers. I painted them. “We need to feed our souls, too.” Those words still resonate with me today. Is Judy still right? Do we, as human beings, need more than food and a shelter? Do we need beauty in our lives?
Given our limited resources, how do we cultivate and care for our souls? And how do these questions apply to the larger culture?
My life as an artist, and as a founder of International Arts Movement, has been in pursuit of questions like these—not just internally or for my own sake but with a growing global network of people. What began as an admission of my own failure to be an artist has now given birth to many principles that govern my life as an artist, father, husband, and leader. I call them “generative principles.” What started out as Judy’s care for our own souls has blossomed into an effort to extend that care into our home and our churches, and into a vision for culture at large. What I call Culture Care is a generative approach to culture that brings bouquets of flowers into a culture bereft of beauty.