Paul Mitri: Art is necessary

A lesson from Journalism Day


Photo by Tre Cravalho

“What normally happens is artists, actors, and writers choose mediocre art that makes people happy, but what they should really be doing is choosing the art that questions and solidifies each and every observer’s ideals” — Paul Mitri on the importance of art. -Paul Mitri Photo: Mural at the Campus Center on the University of Hawai’i, Manoa campus.

By Tre Cravalho, staff writer

If you’re one of those who doesn’t quite understand the importance of art — including all of its forms — then Paul Mitri may have some things that will change your views.

Paul Mitri spoke to a handful from about 40 high school journalism students at the University of Hawai’i Mānoa’s annual Journalism Day event. Mitri is the director of Sunday in the Park with George at the Kennedy Theatre on the school’s campus, October 23-31.

In the Sondheim play, the main character is a sculptor named George in dire need of inspiration, so he visits a park where his ancestor, also named George, had created the painting Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte. After his visit George, starts to ponder on what art is, and then, what life is.

Mitri said that the play has a message for everyone.

“Get out of what you’re used to,” he said. “Try new things and experience life for what it is, because if it’s a lark, it’s worth doing.”

In his talk, Mitri said “Art is… necessary. Children, life, anything you can think of; it’s so many possibilities.”

He also said that teenagers don’t understand this and can get discouraged and sometimes give up when they hear a “no,” but he said that art gives you the option to go get past that “no.”

Director Paul Mitri talks about the importance of art at the University of Hawai'i's annual Journalism Day, Saturday, Sept. 12.
Photo by Tre Cravalho
Director Paul Mitri talks about the importance of art at the University of Hawai’i’s annual Journalism Day, Saturday, Sept. 12.

“Go over that no, go under that no, and go around that no, because art is only limited to what you can create, what you can imagine,” he said.

Artists have the power to illustrate images and tell stories that carry their thoughts, feelings, and actions. They question and impact the world around them.

Mitri gave an example of instance when the importance of art has been overlooked.

In World War II, he said, Winston Churchill noticed first hand the cuts taken in the funding of art so that the money could be used to fuel the flames of war, but when Churchill questioned the move saying that if money was being taken out of art programs to fight a war, then what was the U.S. fighting for?

Mitri ended by saying that talent is you. He said to think outside the box, be resourceful and push the limits of society. He said that you can’t get stuck in a stereotype because you define yourself, so get out of what you’re used to, try something new, and if you do it right you’ll walk away saying “so many possibilities.”

Tickets go on sale Monday, September 14. Click here to go the show’s website for more information.