Creating a Legacy and the Echoes of Yesterday

By Kathrese McKee | Feature

Will my work stand the test of time?

As an artist, this question haunts me. Let’s say that my novel makes it into print. Will anyone remember or care after ten years? Twenty? One hundred?

Why should I spend the precious hours of my life toiling over this work that probably won’t outlive me? Your answer, if you’re an artist, is probably like mine; I’m compelled to create. The troubling question remains. We all want to create a legacy that will be handed down from generation to generation. So, can we influence the odds?

Echoes of Yesterday

Around Christmas, I had the unscheduled joy of visiting the tire store, and as I sat in the lobby surrounded by other customers, flipping through magazines and playing with phones, “Merry Christmas, Darling,” sung by Karen Carpenter began to play.

Music has enormous power to trigger memories, and Karen’s rich alto voice took me back to my teens in a single heartbeat with echoes of yesterday. Knowing she died when she was only 32 years old 1983, brought home the poignancy of listening to her voice almost 30 years later.

Musical performances have only recently attained the potential to outlive the performer. We don’t have any recordings (that I could discover) of Franz Liszt, perhaps the greatest pianist ever, due entirely to the late development of recording technology. Thankfully, his work lives on through his written compositions.

The Artist’s Part in Creating a Legacy

How can we, as artists, increase the odds of creating a legacy that echoes through time, outliving us, and continuing to be relevant? I came up with four ways:

  • Create a fresh work with a universal theme.  There really isn’t anything new under heaven, and you’re not going to invent a new universal theme. However, a fresh approach is essential, and the only means for achieving a fresh approach is to create original work–your work, your voice, your way. Being original means stepping out with courage, believing in your message, and following through with integrity.
  • Create something worthwhile – As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Worth is subjective and hard to pin down. I believe that art designed and intended to enrich the lives of others, instead of merely as a means of self-expression, has the greatest potential to outlive its creator. Who cares about your “self-expression?” Your mom, maybe, but no one else. Inspire others. Challenge humanity to higher ideals. Enrich the lives of those who experience your art. Only then will your art have that ellusive property of “worth.”
  • Create Quality – Give only your best and never think you’ve attained it. There’s always a way to improve, and an artist attempting to create a legacy aspires to best his best.
  • Perform in public -An artist can’t hope to create a legacy unless his work is shared with others. Many others. To ensure dispersion, an artist has to get in front of an audience. A writer has to publish, a painter has to show his work, and a performer has to…perform. Hand in hand with performance is promotion. Performance and promotion are not enough, though, because at that point, your work is in the hands of others.

Legacy Is in the Hands of Others

Ultimately, the longevity of an artist’s work is determined by others. The audience decides whether they appreciate the work enough to share it. One generation hands it down to the next–or not. Others decide whether or not to curate the artist’s work, either publicly or privately. An artist’s work lives or dies in the hands of others.

Will your work stand the test of time?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please leave your comments below.


About the Author

Texas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for young adults and anyone else who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is committed to exciting stories, appropriate content, and quality craftsmanship.

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