Different modes of communication make possible the sharing of information, ideas, and feelings that can help us to understand what it is that makes us human. Language, music, dance and art are recognized as fundamental tools in this quest. As a teacher of a foreign language, my focus has been the written and spoken word, my vehicle promoting understanding of life in other cultures. The tools that I use are the words, idioms and expressions of thought and experience intrinsic to culture different from our own. That these have parallels to our culture makes the learning more relevant to my students. Learning a language does not, however, merely entail the acquisition of nouns and verbs in their syntax. Innuendo, pause, inflection and accompanying gesture all serve to enrich the total understanding of the message spoken. This is not so in music and dance, however. Here artists from diverse cultures, who may not speak nor understand each other's language, can share a common understanding of the notes, rhythm, choreography and movement of these art forms without speaking a word! Perhaps music and movement are more archetypal whereas language is learned. However, these expressive forms communicate at different levels and with different rubrics for successful understanding than do verbal arts.
But, what about the visual arts? Here we can form parallels with the written word that work to support one another by sharing the specific vocabulary, expressions and style of another medium. So, vocabularies of colors, shapes, textures and forms bring descriptive imagery to our senses. They catch our attention and speak to us! Artists, as "writers," invite us into their world; invite us to know them better. Their visual themes reawaken our memories and connect us through our own experiences.