The Smile at the Heart of Things

Essays and Life Stories

Brian H. Peterson

What are the essential ingredients of a creative life?
How does an artist become an artist?
Can art and religion find common ground?
What does it mean to be an individual, and as individuals can we be separate and singular as well as communal and connected?

Brian H. Peterson wrestles with these questions and offers some answers in The Smile at the Heart of Things, a wide-ranging and deeply satisfying collection of personal essays, journal entries, and reflections on art, artists, and art museums. Drawing on his experiences as a musician, visual artist, scholar, and museum curator, Peterson connects his own search for growth and meaning with larger issues of creativity and the human spirit, often by simply telling stories about his own life and the lives of artists, friends, and family members.

For those of us who strive to juggle our career and family, our jobs and our true passions, The Smile at the Heart of Things offers insight into the ways people balance their world and contemplates how religion, family, loss, love, and even personal struggles inform our lives and make them richer.

The key ingredients to a creative life, suggests author Brian H. Peterson, are nourishment, honesty, beauty, depth, and hunger. These ingredients form the five main sections of the book, within which Peterson gathers essays about art and artists, journal excerpts, and life stories not the entire story of someones life, he says, but a story from life that is also a glimpse into a life.

Brian H. Peterson, Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator at the James A. Michener Art Museum, has more than 30 years experience as a curator, critic, artist, and arts administrator in the Philadelphia area.