Vision of the World

Visionary: "able to see visions," 1651, from vision (q.v.). Meaning "impractical" is attested from 1727. The noun is attested from 1702, from the adj., originally "one who indulges in impractical fantasies."

Each of us has the power within to be a visionary. In so many ways, life itself is nothing more than one vision after the next. We dream what tomorrow will be, then wake and create our reality of the new day. We build businesses, raise families and make a lifetime of memories that would not have existed without us, the individual. We lose ourselves in paintings and often stand in disbelief that it was once a blank canvas, we sing along to a song on the radio and ponder that the instruments and voices were nothing before they came together to create something. We laugh with children and stop mid-laugh to think of the creation of life. Yes, we all come from a vision of life and by nature we are visionaries.

Jim Sheridan was the first visionary for the Art of Elysium's annual "Heaven" gala. The gala is a black tie event that takes place in Los Angeles the night before The Golden Globes and was created to illustrate The Art of Elysium's programs and creativity that volunteer artists bring to hospitalized children on a daily basis. At the time Jim was deep in production on his film "Brothers" but he managed to dream up a heaven where opera singers strolled through the crowd singing Faust and a Vogue fashion show ended with Talib Kwali joining in with an original rap on top of the opera Carmen. In Jim's version of heaven, "there could not be a heaven without a hell" so after the first portion of the event hosted at the Vibiana Cathedral ended, guests were escorted across the street to an underground bar where Hell awaited. Absinthe was served, women and men were adorned in flamboyant costumes and danced in cages suspended from the ceiling, and everyone watched as musician Daniel Lanois gave the performance of a lifetime.

This year on January 16, 600 guests were treated to a very different vision of "Heaven". From the mind of Shepard Fairey, Heaven took place in an underground parking garage. As the visionary, Shepard believes that Heaven is all about the inner-connectivity of all things and he found the best illustration of this in Mick Rock's photograph of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and David Bowie.

Using this image as inspiration he came up with the idea of an all-star band performing, in conjunction with a classical string section, a combination of their songs sung by Billy Idol and accompanying him on acoustic guitar, Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. In that moment the realization of Shepard's version of heaven became real, an inner-connectivity between people by way of creative expression and force.

Shepard selected the 2011 visionary and everyone is so excited to see what Mark Mothersbaugh will create. As a founding member of Devo and as an acclaimed film composer, Mark will no doubt bring a singular vision to what this gala is beginning to represent. The first meeting has taken place and he already knows exactly what his "Heaven" looks like but everyone, including me, has to wait until next year to see. Two hints he has shared with me are: (1) it does not include a hell and (2) inner-connectivity will definitely be pushing the creative process as he will be reaching out to friends to help realize his vision.

What does your heaven look like and how are you going to make that a reality tomorrow? When we realize that we can all create our own realities, then heaven on Earth is truly possible. My heaven does not include war, it does not include poverty, it does not include walking by someone in need and pretending not to see them. My heaven includes really seeing the person that is standing behind me in line and offering them a cup of coffee, it includes musicians realizing the power of their music and singing for a child in need, it includes rescuing a dog and loving it enough to make him feel safe and it includes loving enough to forget everything else. I will work on building my heaven, you work on building yours and each day we will become our own visionaries.