What is art?

Music, dance, theater, opera, painting, etching, drawing, sculpture, prose, photography, cinema, pottery, poetry - and more.

Who are the artists of Spoleto Festival USA?

Extremely accomplished folks now putting their remarkable talents on display in our lucky midst.

But whether you know it or not, you're an artist, too.

That doesn't mean you can ever attain the lofty skill heights worthy of Spoleto - or Piccolo Spoleto - billing.

It does, however, mean that forever damming up your untapped pool of artistic abilities is a damn shame.

Don't take my word for it.

Take a chance and dance, sing, play a musical instrument, draw, paint, sculpt and/or write.

Feel the liberating exhilaration of unleashing your latent creativity.

Scared to try?

Then catch some Spoleto and/or Piccolo Spoleto acts. They should provide inspiration for, not intimidation against, releasing the artist long locked within.

Art isn't, or at least shouldn't be, a contest. It's an enchanting way to communicate, teach, vent and learn.

It's a way to truly live.

Sure, when you get really good at some artistic endeavor, it's also a way to entertain, impress, incite, enlighten and even make money.

But its greatest treasure lies in enlightening yourself by developing your own special set of artistic abilities.

That voyage of personal discovery could even lighten the cumulative psychic load of daily drudgery - including the cruel ordeal of working Monday on what for most Americans was a holiday.

Meanwhile, during Spoleto you can elevate your perspective of our world by basking in the glories of "high art."

Looking high and low

So what is "high art"?

Distinguished Post and Courier colleague Adam Parker gave this uplifting clue last Thursday in Charleston Scene's Spoleto preview: "What all high art has in common is the utter dedication of its practitioners and the lifetime of schooling require to present it."

Parker persuasively asserted that "surely there is a place for artistic elitism, so let us pay our respects to those who have dedicated their lives to perfection and performance."

The best way to pay your respects these special days is to witness Spoleto "perfection and performance" before the festival ends on June 8.

But if you're aiming lower, remember that Clemson's Spittoono Festival presents dandy bluegrass and other musical artists every August.

Or if you prefer soap operas to operas, you might be more exited about today's episode of "General Hospital" than about Spoleto's American premiere of "Facing Goya," which is a musical story about a visual artist.

For instance, what will Sonny do on "GH" today when he finally finds out that Ava, not A.J., killed Connie?

And when will "GH," or any other soap, ever match its recent epic "Nurses' Ball" opening triumph of "Willkommen" from "Cabaret" by General Hospital Chief of Staff (and multiple kidnapper) Dr. Liesl Obrecht (played with Teutonic gusto by Kathleen Gait)?

Know it: You're a poet

From Port Charles back to Charleston:

Though some Spoleto tickets are mighty pricey, you can see lots of Piccolo Spoleto events at moderate or even no cost.

For instance, admission is free to the Sundown Poetry Series, which features readings by poets and authors at 6:30 p.m. each Monday through Friday through June 6 in the Dock Street Theatre courtyard.

This evening's Sundown star: Frances Justine Post, who's from Sullivan's Island, got a master's in poetry from Columbia University and is working on her Ph.D. at the University of Houston.

And while former Post and Courier Charleston Scene editor Marcus Amaker isn't participating in that Piccolo series this year, he is conducting another of his "poetry slam" events at the John L. Dart Library at 1067 King Street from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday.

Now a few instructive lines from "The New Foundation" by Amaker, who though a poet, graphic designer, videographer, visual artist and bicycle rider rightly prefers not to be wholly defined by those terms:

"people keep saying to live each day

like it's your last,

but i say

live like it's your first."

No, that doesn't rhyme.

Yet it does sing within the Japanese Pecha Kucha style, mixing spoken words with visual images.

That poem also reminds you to take that first, brave step toward living like an artist.

So in this bold spirit we turn to that vastly underrated poetic form, the limerick.

Unfortunately, the best limericks typically explore bawdy themes unsuitable for our family newspaper.

But as we go from verse to worse, this closing creation of my own deserves a "G" - or is that a "gee"? - rating:

Behold our grand festival Spoleto,

Goes with Charleston like shrimp with tomato,

To skip it would be a pity,

It enhances our Holy City,

And Italy's still a member of NATO

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.