Bev Jackson Cotter: Art is displayed many different ways during the holiday season

Published 9:00 am Saturday, December 21, 2019

Arts is… by Bev Jackson Cotter

Bev Jackson Cotter


The Christmas season is a time when everyone’s creative thinking comes to the fore. It seems that tree trimming, outdoor decorations, cookie frostings, gift wrapping, caroling all call for creativity. 

Are you thinking outside the box? Let me give you a little challenge. How many words can you form from the word art? How creative can you get with only three letters?

The alphabet we use is made up of only 26 letters. Yet, they make up hundreds of thousands of words. Not only are the words available to us, but the emotion that we give them — anger, love, sadness, joy, questioning — also give different meanings. 

Like our creativity with the letters of the alphabet, the Christmas season abounds with art, with outside-the-box thinking. The carols that we sing — traditional and new versions, the decorations in our homes and on the Christmas trees, the outdoor lighting that brightens our downtown and neighborhoods, the brightly colored gift packages, even the holiday sweaters that come out of the drawer in December — they all emphasize creativity.

I would guess that with the thousands of Christmas trees in homes and businesses and churches in Albert Lea, there are no two alike. Each one shares a different message, be it with a Nativity scene, Santa Claus and elves, family memories, or maybe a special color theme. Each tree is different, each one special.

And the other decorations — swags, centerpieces, wreaths, lawn ornaments, lighting, wall hangings and stockings — are there two of them that are alike?

Then there’s the reason for the season — the beautiful Nativity scenes in our homes, yards and by churches. They each contain Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, shepherds, sheep, kings and camels, yet they are all different, each created by a different artist and, over the years, weather-worn and faded.

We may all be celebrating the same season, yet each of us finds our own special meaning and our own special way to share the holiday.

Recently I attended two events, each one giving the participants the opportunity to sing Christmas carols. 

At the first, everyone joined in the singing — “Silent Night,” “Joy to the World,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” — happy voices raised in song, smiles, nodding heads, tapping feet. It was a joyous, spontaneous evening. 

The following week, another event brought a different group of people together, and when the audience was asked to join in the carols, no one sang. It could have been a chorus of an additional hundred voices, but it didn’t happen, and soon, I, too, sat quietly and listened to the choir on the stage. 

Why the difference? I don’t know. Modesty on the part of the second group? A little wine on the part of the first? The way the request to join in was presented? I don’t know. The first group known for their artistry and the second known for their subdued seriousness? I don’t know.

Back to thinking outside the box, I came up with three more words from Art, “TAR…RAT…TRA-la-la-la-la.” Can you do any more?

The Christmas season is a time for creativity and sharing, whether it be in your holiday decorations, in singing Christmas carols, the frosted cookies or the Christmas letter to friends and family. Whether you turn your traditions upside down or inside out, whether you celebrate with a house full of people or alone, may you have a blessed holiday, a merry Christmas, and a creative new year.

Bev Jackson Cotter is a member of The Albert Lea Art Center, where the exhibition “Celebrating the Art of the Season” will be on display through Dec. 28.