October 24, 2023by Mike Mitchell

Nonprofit purpose under the eyes of a Da Vinci

Life Imitates Art is the expression. With Da Vinci’s Last Supper, which I’ve wanted to see my entire adult life, art imitates life.  You don’t need to be Christian or even religious to marvel at the expression in each of the 12 figures reacting to the Christianity’s central figure asserting that one will betray him, leading to his death.

Those of us raised Christian come to believe, at least culturally, that these apostles were holy persons, devoid of faults, on certain paths to sainthood.  But the beauty of Da Vinci’s painting is what myself and other nonprofit practitioners know too well.  We often serve the needs of individuals and issues society has failed to support, solve, and about which are often seen as the ”fault”  of those who experience them.  Their desperation can be so deep, urgent, and filled with pleas we too often adopt as our own to fix and resolve.  Having spent a career in nonprofits and too often grasping those cries, seeing Da Vinci’s masterpiece was a healthy reminder no matter our position in life (Apostle, executive director, volunteer…), we all may struggle to assure our efforts have lasting meaning.

Observing the apostles in the scene and the expressions Da Vinci captures, one realizes we all struggle in our pursuit of purpose.  One brilliant painter conveyed this lesson in something he completed more than 5 centuries ago and it can be our reminder that, at least, some art imitates life.