One of my most formative childhood experiences was watching my father at work on a loading dock. He was a true master, seemingly gliding through a warehouse, moving pallets by forklift with the sort of naturally deft command one expects from a healthy adult lifting a table fork to enjoy an evening meal.

I was not yet a musician, and had barely learned to string sentences together, but I had an immediate sense what I was watching was art. I hadn’t yet been exposed to philosophy, but I intuited and understood I was witnessing unity of thought and action – praxis.

There was a flow to my father’s work that is only possible when one is comprehensively physically, psychologically and technically prepared for demands before them; when myelin greets both action and mission.

Art is the result of preparation meeting opportunity; true artistic masters seek to understand the real and emergent needs of those connected to them, and translate those experiences, personal and corporate, through their medium of choice.

Lisa Kaplan, Middletown Art Center and EcoArts exemplify artful community engagement. If you have not experienced LOCUS, make it a priority to visit Middletown’s Trailside Park before Sunday, 11/10, at dusk. The materials available at the Middletown Art Center website are a starting place, but please go and experience these exhibits in person, as well.

LOCUS is a place-centered translation and transformation of Lake County’s wildfire experience. It powerfully weds form and function, with sculptures serving as sanctuary for Trailside Park’s birds.

It both emerges from and fulfills fundamental needs; needs of shelter and belonging, both sublimation and actualization of emotion. It speaks to basic commitments: human beings, one to another; commitment of a person to their physical and geographic space; the relative permanence of the clay and earth that, though scorched, refuses to be consumed.

We are all translators, as we go about our lives, charged with recognizing the dignity in others, and amplifying what is good and significant about those around us.

May the work of Kaplan and others inspire us to bring to our industrial machinery, our forms and paperwork, our consolation of the sick and suffering, our clay and mud and asphalt, tools and technologies the very best of ourselves.

The County of Lake, as part of our #LakeCountyBrilliance initiative, will be sharing powerful lessons learned in conversation with Lisa Kaplan in the coming weeks, lessons that challenge us all to greet obstacles with an eye toward wholeness and restoration, encouraging us to identify not as permanently scarred, but hopefully resilient.

Matthew Rothstein

Matthew Rothstein serves as Public Information Officer for the County of Lake.

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