I have now lived in Oslo, Norway for the past three and a half years and I think the Norwegian system and society are advanced in many ways. I come from Greece and it would be blind if I didn’t notice the superiority of the Norwegian education system, healthcare system and the maturity of the Norwegian society. And I could go on and on like Celine Dion’s heart but I won’t.
This time, I have decided to write about something that has personally given me a hard time since I moved here and I know my beloved Norwegians will allow me that: The institutionalization of art.
Growing up in Athens, writing, dancing lessons and playing theater, were always on the weekly schedule and so far so good because there’s many activity schools for children here as well. When I was a teenager I also got into singing and doing vocals and I continued with that and theater into my adulthood as well. I actually stopped playing theater when I moved to Norway at age 28.
So when I moved here I thought “ok, I will find something” and I started looking for things and trying things out. In the beginning and as my language skills were still poor, I tried theater training which was intended for professional actors but amateurs were welcome too. It was really interesting as I got acquainted with more theater techniques but it was in the morning so when I started working regularly I had to stop.
I continued at an activity school that offered theater for adults and though it was fun to warm up physically and do a few improvisation exercises, I was always left wanting more at the end –which was only one and a half hour after it started. I wanted training sessions, working with texts, being in a group rather than just meeting people there, I wanted to work towards a goal…
Well, persistent little Greek as I am, I tried again at a different school that promised to teach us Lee Strasberg’s Method Acting AND work with texts and scenes! Oh you should have seen how happy I was when I found out about that! To be very fair to them, the people working there were serious, knew their stuff and made an effort but most of the people attending the course, were either studying to be actors or wanted to study to be actors and the difference between them and us, the golden girls and boys, was quite obvious and demotivating.
I’ve made many similar efforts to find a dancing course for adults and get into music again but with poor results. My initial suspicion kept growing with every unsuccessful effort and it was eventually confirmed by a Norwegian friend of mine. Art in Norway is institutionalized, meaning if you’re not an educated artist you might as well forget about it.
I could get really dramatic now and ask “Why God why? Why are you doing this to me?” but as I think that would barely appeal to the logical Norwegian mind, I will use arguments instead. So here we go: Why adults should have the right to have artistic hobbies:
As my favorite Esther Perel says we are wired for connection, we want to be seen, communicate ourselves, feel like we’re special and interesting. An adult usually satisfies this need through contact with their partner, family and friends, right? What if not all of the above are in place for someone, or what if art simply provides a liver friendly alternative to getting drunk and talking loud in order to be seen?
Point number two: Existential questions. Yes, adults have them too and for some the need for meaning and purpose is strong. I belong in this category of people and as I’m not very religious, art has always helped me utter these questions, process them, bring them into existence and eventually transform them into something else. It could be a story, a poem or it could be a scene at a theater play, but no matter the result, art is an alchemist in this regard, it’s therapeutic. It also works very well against fears!
Moving on… Art is food for thought, it broadens your horizons, gives you new things to think about other than “what should I have for dinner today?” or “do I need botox?” It gives you new ways to think about things, develops your critical thinking and creative skills. It teaches you how to cooperate better and how to be a team player so I can’t think of a better supplement to a corporate career.
Art is an escape without having to escape your life or long for your next vacation all the time. Art gives quality to life. It is fun, it allows the child within every adult to get out and play. The idea of a band consisting of older people playing music or theater or have poetry night in a bar for their families appeals to me a lot more than the idea of people who stay home alone watching TV night after night feeling forgotten by the world. And by the way, in about 40 years, if you hear about a lady walking up and down Karl Johans gate in a red hat singing, it’ll probably be me!
For the time being, I’m dancing and writing and I hope you will write back to me!