With 2016 now a part of history, there is a brief moment in this new year to look back to learn and to use the lessons of the past year to assist us as we move forward. Without a doubt each year brings with it many lessons. 365 days from now, we will look back on 2017 and again look forward to a new year. Before we do that however, there are 365 days to live, beginning today.

Depending on your viewpoint, 2016 impacted you in ways that are special only to you. 2016 like all years is full of stories. Some stories are personal while others resonate with an entire community. Whatever the final outcome of 2016, the new year brings with it potential, promise, and the opportunity to communicate and experience new stories. We need the arts in our communities now more than ever to tell us stories.

It seems odd that the value of the arts is still being debated in our communities. In looking back on our collective history, the arts have served to teach us so much. In our communities, the arts have the ability to not only bring us together, but to challenge us to think about our community and those who live in it a little differently. At a time in which it seems we are divided as a nation, it is the arts that can bring us together, not just in the theaters, concert halls and museums, but also in our homes and gathering places.

One of the things that has always inspired me personally is the ability of the arts to tell stories that shape our world. It is through the telling of stories that we learn. It is through the telling of stories that we experience new cultures and ideas. Through the exchanging of stories we are brought out of our comfortable isolation.

My wish for 2017 is that the artists of our communities tell us even more stories that require us to communicate with each other about the very things that make us uncomfortable. Stories take us out of our singular viewpoint and force to consider how other people view the world. With each visit to a performance space or each interaction with performers let audiences be challenged and changed. Let this be the year that communities come together to find common ground through art. May our communities recognize the incredible spiritual value that the arts generate and may they rise up to support artists. Great art is not reserved for large communities only. Every community must have its own artistic voice and needs to be nurtured and supported accordingly.

Though the divide in society may seem great at this moment there are new stories to be told and with those stories new conversations to take in our communities. Dim the lights, raise the curtain, let the artists take the stage. Let us discover together the stories of 2017.