I am a New Yorker who was told to move to Scotland to create an international research centre for beauty. I had no money, just a vision, and over 400 people gave me 1 million pounds. The centre has been open now for over 9 years.
I have spoken as a keynote speaker for the European Registrars Conference, Museums Galleries Scotland, Creative Scotland and the Big Lottery.
I speak of my dedication of beauty as an anti-depressant, of beauty experienced viscerally, of beauty as the alleviation of pain. Our local authourity has chosen to take my approach of Creative Coping Mechanisms (using creativity and beauty as a solution, an alternate coping mechanism), as a mainstream approach to people with substance misuse issues.
My dedication is: Uplifting the Soul and Spirit through Beauty, and I have done so - now with The British Museum, The Tate and The National Galleries of Scotland as our partners - all in rural Scotland, we are now having exhibitions like never seen before: Italian Renaissance drawings, Classical Greek sculpture, but behind everything we do is to bring the Aesthetic Orgasm (beauty felt, experienced physically) to every person who comes in.
The Historian, George Trevelyan, spoke in the 1970’s of a new Renaissance:
"The new society that is coming to birth will show standards and a sense of values. ... in the days of the great Renaissance, the whole society was geared for creativity… I come back to my picture of the new Renaissance, as you are all working, not simply for your self and your own craft, but for a united vision, of the living spirit… It may need great things. As I see a time when - you build this great city we may even build a cathedral.”
As a little boy of seven, in my family's NY suburban house, alone after carrying out my Saturday chores, I turned on the television. The programme was "Appalachian Spring" by the Modern Dancer, Martha Graham. I remember that I physically felt this performance as a wave of awe from my toes to my head - a feeling of elevation.
There were two worlds: the pedestrian and the elevated, artifact and art.
Again as a child, before a television, I watched the opera star Maria Callas in her dressing room abruptly turn toward the interviewer, slapping down her mascara, "People work all day at jobs they hate. They come to the opera for beauty”.
When I moved to Scotland, my life turned upside down; no longer hard, lonely graft of my old life, but a magic-carpet ride, an invitation to meet my soul’s purpose. I received a message on the day that I was given permanent leave to remain in the UK, as I passed through Covent Garden, “Now that you can stay, build the birthplace of the next Golden Age. All resources will come and all the right people will be called.”
Like a simple child, I spoke of the next Golden Age, a new Athens, a new Florence ~ beauty as an anti-depressant; felt viscerally, physically, transformative - uplifting the body and soul, and 400 people gave me, unsolicited, £1 million to create a centre.
Now the art centre, with two exhibition spaces and seven studios, is nearing its 5th anniversary, with an exhibition of Classical Greek sculpture from The British Museum and never-before-seen pieces from Lord Elgin’s collection -partnerships with The British Museum, National Galleries of Scotland, The Courtauld Gallery, Glasgow Museums and now moving into European partnerships.
I find myself at table in castles with earls and duchesses, museum directors and international art historians. I gave the keynote speech to 600 of the world’s greatest museums in Amsterdam. Reflecting, I ran in tears to the gents in the Concertgebouw - how did this all come about?
Recently I addressed all the UK’s museums and galleries in Edinburgh. I showed a clip from “Appalachian Spring”. I broke into tears. I wanted to show them: Why I do what I do. “Why do you go to work? Why do you get up in the morning?” This sea of arts people had had their dream, their vision beaten out of them. Fifty years, nearly, since I saw that dance, I cry. Why? It penetrates, it relieves me of the burden of my problems, it caresses my soul.
It is this – the aesthetic orgasm – the reason that I have created this art centre; bringing the possibility that others can experience the balm, the awe of beauty – Enjoying the feeling beauty on a physical, visceral level, not only an intellectual exercise, but a transformative experience.
On, goes the vision, ever expending – this is how manifestation works – desire breeds desire, excitement breeds excitement. Go on Universe, surprise me!