We are in the midst of setting up an Arts and Culture district in
Charles Town. There is a word present here which for most of us is so ill-defined that it can mean almost anything: culture.

When I was a boy – during the early Mesozoic Period – people with culture were seen by us as stuck-up. They liked music none of us could understand and visual art that none of us got. They tended to talk down about television and athletics – two thing that interested us a lot. We thought they were boring and ‘too cool for school’, and they thought we were loutish. Their culture was a protective blanket that kept them away from the unwashed whereas for us television and athletics were our feeble attempts to get higher than everyday life seemed to bring us. The fancy paintings were what they said they were. The music meant what they said it meant. Television and athletics displayed a kind of manliness the pursuit of which seemed to make us more authentic.

Then for me real art broke through. It was too big and had too much life for the ‘cultured’ people to control it. I was caught by the dramatic moment of Caravaggio, the sublime grandeur of Michelangelo, the everyday real people of Rembrandt, the soul-lifting intricacies of Bach and the interest-grabbing tonal combinations of Mozart. No one could explain them to me once they entered my heart. They spoke too loudly. I was carried away by the Messiah and enveloped in the mists of Monet. There are also people nearer and closer to me now that demand a hearing.

That’s what culture does – real culture. An arts and culture district is a place where real people reach out and touch real people. Let’s not forget that culture is fundamentally the fact of touching and changing.

– Joe Bourgeois