Ferdinand the Bull and Lyme Academy of Fine Arts

in Columns

We have become addicted to immediate gratification. We want greater rewards with less work. We see that attitude in a stock market driven by traders focused on every move by the Federal Reserve, while fundamental research has been relegated to the back burner. We see it in the news where every mis-step by a politician is recorded on the front page, while little attention is paid to the longer-term consequences of his or her policies. We see it in a decline in community volunteerism. In Old Lyme, we risk losing a cherished institution that is the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, for want of a vision supported by necessary funds and a passion for the arts. 

There is irony in the fact that developments in medicines and medical technologies allow us to live longer, while our time horizons have shrunk. In our concern for immediate retribution to actual and perceived past ills, we have forgotten the history of our country, which stretches back almost two hundred and fifty years, and how over that time life has improved. Instead of focusing on those positive trends, we would indict those of our Founders who did not live up to standards we demand today.

In education, there has been a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) at the expense of literature, philosophy and the arts. Since the world evolves at an ever-quickening pace that focus is understandable in a competitive world. But it would be a mistake to not also appreciate the world around us, made more beautiful by creative spirits of artists, writers and musicians. In this regard, Old Lyme has been fortunate. At the south end of Lyme Street stands the Congregational Church, where Musical Masterworks performs five concert series every year. At the north end of Lyme Street sits the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts, and just north of it are the Lyme Art Association and the Florence Griswold Museum. Those buildings and the art and music they represent did not just appear but were built and have been maintained by men and women of vision who realized that gratification can take years, if not decades, to germinate.

People come to Old Lyme because the town offers interludes to otherwise hectic lives, for a chance, like Ferdinand, to enjoy life’s pleasures. In coming here, they have helped maintain the beauty of the town and, in particular, the historic district that is Lyme Street, one of New England’s most beautiful streets. Over the past twenty years an estimated $100 million has been invested in both public and private buildings, from the town hall and public schools to thirty residences along the street.

People in southeast Connecticut have a choice regarding the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts. We can help the board find ways to allow the institution to survive and thrive, or we can let the Academy fail and suffer the consequences. The first involves imagination, time and money. The second shows a lack of vision. The first requires a long-term plan with delayed gratification. The second suggests a people with little concern for the future, the beauty of their town and street. Ferdinand survived the matadors because, while big and strong – remember when he was stung by a bee? –, he chose reflection over impetuosity, preferring the beauty that life affords to following his fellow bulls to destruction. May we make the right decision.