Well, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is over, and if you missed it, you missed out. Great cast, great crew, and people will be talking about those commercials for quite some time, if only to say, “Once again Ceason, don’t quit your day job.”

But something we talked about in the middle of finding programs and getting light cues in place was how much the kids in our cast really enjoyed being onstage. And we didn’t cut them slack: we expected them to learn cues, to project, to pay attention to their surroundings, and use their instincts. And they did beautifully, which got us thinking: 2020 needs to be the year we start expanding arts activities for our kids.

I’m not talking just a few hours of craft time, although big thanks to the Library for providing that! I’m talking dedicated arts programs for kids in the 10-18 age range, who want more than our schools and libraries are able to offer. A year-round acting program for our youth at the Alpine. Mixed-media art classes, so they can get a few more hours in learning about pottery, wood-working, print-making, drawing, and everything in between. Writing groups where the kids do quarterly magazines they create themselves. Longer arts camps in the summer, with singing, music, and a big production at the end, where everyone’s talents are on display.

Arts are the kind of thing that are so easily taken for granted, and so easily tossed away in a budget discussion, because they are so subjective. There’s no clear “winner” in an art show, even when there is judging. A play might have a star, but that star shines because of the lights of everyone around them. Arts aren’t like a football game, where the best is determined by the score at the end.

That can be hard for some people to get. What’s the point of painting if you aren’t Andy Warhol? Why bother writing a story if you aren’t Stephen King? What do you get out of performing in a play that only the community will see? If you aren’t the best, and you can’t capitalize on being the best, then why bother?

I won’t speak for everyone’s motivation for staying creative, but I’ll tell you for me, it works as a way to exercise another part of my brain and destresses me all at the same time. I turn on Amazon Prime and paint, and the hours just fly by, and at the end, I have a picture that only I will really appreciate, but I’m all the happier for it. I work on essays or this column, and I know they aren’t Pulitzer-worthy, but I like the opportunity to find the perfect word or phrase to say just what I mean, and there’s a chance someone else likes what I mean too. And I still think I’ll eventually publish one of the novels I have sitting in my hard drive, when I get real courageous one day.

Point is, you don’t need to be good at the arts to feel great practicing the arts. Karen Wolfe with Art by Karen will show you how to paint a great picture, but it’s the act of doing it (and the fun of being in the group!) that’s important. You don’t need to be Meryl Streep to love being onstage and being a part of a cast. You don’t need to practice the arts at a young age in order to parlay that talent into a college scholarship (although kudos to you if you can!).

You just have to love how participating in the arts makes you feel. You just have to like how it gets your blood flowing, and your mind racing, and brings joy to your life, even if you’re the only person who ever hears the song you wrote or sees the wood piece you turned. There doesn’t have to be anything in it for you but the joy of being creative, and we need to foster that joy in our kids early and often.

So as we start planning our 2020 community goals, lets look into adding more arts activities for our kids, and encourage more adults to participate in classes as well. We have a wonderfully creative community, JCO: lets make next year the year we enjoy bringing our talents to the light.