As I write this, I feel a combined sensation of a need to honor and a gut filled sorrow from the loss of a truly great artist, Lou Reed. Having received countless messages, I am expressing on behalf of many the acute sensation of longing which comes to the surface when we lose someone who inspired us deeply. Importantly also, is a shared depth of gratitude for his contributions in so many ways to our collective experience through his poetry, music and spirited fullness. I offer our support, condolence and sincere compassion to Laurie Anderson most especially, and the many extended friends and loved ones of Lou’s who are and will be grieving the most, while undoubtedly celebrating his incredible life in the days and months to come. Our hearts are with you each and every one.
At the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA we honor and acknowledge the life work of many esteemed artists, at various stages within their careers and within their evolving projects and ideas. It’s in times like this that I can be grateful to know that our mission and purpose matters to many artists the world over, while at the same time I cannot help but feel overwhelmed at how much more we need to be doing to change the culture that supports the incredible possibility of greatness within artists so that they can thrive, contrive and inspire us all with what it means to be truly human in the bigness of our tiny world together.
I am struck in the media and press coverage surrounding the news of Lou Reed’s passing, that there is a tremendous articulation of his impact and artistic output — credit authentically coming where credit is authentically due. Occasionally these testimonials are flavored with the mention of his work not garnering substantial “commercial success” (however deserved).
To which I can only really offer this — if the allure for artists to deeply excavate our human truths and give them form, was motivated by commercial success alone, the songlines of our heritage would be thin indeed. I ponder this duality often in my own role as an artistic director where I am requested to deftly straddle the active importance of putting a spotlight on the artistic integrity of artists and their art, with the pressure to deliver the somewhat more comforting nuances of assured familiarity and easily knowable outcomes on behalf of another kind of measurement of “success.”
Instead, because of artists like Lou Reed, like Laurie Anderson, like their contemporaries, and the great many artists I have the deep pleasure of working with, not only are our songlines profoundly strengthened, but so too are the tools we have to bolster our awareness of what it means to be “AWAKE” in the world while we inhabit it.
So in honor of Lou Reed, and in service to our communities of artists – I feel compelled to simply say…thank you. Thank you, Lou for expanding the fence line of the familiar and allowing the creative terrain for our souls to wander well, regardless of ever being in full possession of a known outcome at the outset of your own path.