Y2K challenges artists to shine

Maori opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will start things off when she sings at a midnight ceremony Dec. 31 in Auckland, New Zealand.

From the first moments of 2000, the arts will be center stage as humankind seeks to express itself as the 1900s fade from view.

In Washington, President Clinton will host a gala that includes a new short film by Steven Spielberg and music conducted by John Williams. Some 100,000 will look on in person and millions more via television.

A ceremony in Egypt will cap the Great Pyramid with a gold pinnacle. In London, a $1.2 billion Millennium Dome will be opened by the queen. The huge indoor space, 165 feet high and 1,050 feet in diameter, will house 14 "zones" with exhibits exploring questions like "who are we?"

As this week's cover story suggests (look to your right), an explosion of activity in the arts is upon us. The year 2000 is providing a platform from which to gaze back on the last 1,000 years and ahead to a new millennium.

It's a tall order for the arts and artists, to help uplift humankind as we cross this threshold.

One can imagine Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), the Russian novelist and social critic, having this moment in mind when he wrote:

"The present task of art is to make the feeling of brotherhood and love of one's neighbor, which is now shared only by the best members of society, the customary feeling, even the instinct, of all human beings....

"Art is destined to promulgate the truth that the well-being of men consists in their being united together, and to help to set up, in place of the reign of force that now exists, the kingdom of God (Who is Love) that we all recognize as the highest goal of human life."

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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