On Labor Day, Acknowledging the Contributions of Artists

During our lifetime, we spend about 90,000 hours at work. Yet 87% of us have no passion for our jobs. (Sources:Happiness at Work, and Deloitte’s Shift Index surveyrespectively.) What’s more, Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Dying for a Paycheck, says that workplace stress is the fifth-leading cause of death in America. Stress can lead to things like heart attacks, strokes, workplace violence…. Pick your poison. 

If 87% have no enthusiasm for what gets them out of bed in the mornings, I’m intrigued by the 13% who do have some passion for their jobs. And I’m betting professional artists make up a big part of that passionate population. The reason I find this so intriguing is because artists typically take big risks in order to pursue their passions – and in doing so, they contribute to the quality of others’ lives in many enriching and extraordinary ways. I was reminded of this today when I visited WADE, a digital music installation.

According to the artist’s statement, it’s “music for river and people.”  Three area rivers, including one that flows through the town in which I live, are used to compose electronic music. Speakers are mounted on a footbridge located in the downtown area, and real-time U.S. Geological Survey data measures the depth and flow of each of the three rivers. The pedestrian traffic on the footbridge also adds to the composition. The confluence of technology and the organic world creates a rather haunting sound; in fact, what comes to mind is the Portuguese saudade.

If you’re not in a contemplative state of mind when you arrive at the WADE exhibit, you will be by the time you cross the bridge. It’s that kind of an experience.

The exhibit will be in Mount Vernon, Ohio through September 8, so if you’re in the area you’ll want to experience it for yourself. The artist is Nashville-based Aaron Doenges, who grew up in Mount Vernon.

On this Labor Day, that walk across the bridge this afternoon was good for my soul, and a good reminder that our lives are enriched by the diverse professions of a diverse population.