“Art is the activity by which a person, having experienced an emotion, intentionally transmits it to others” – Leo Tolstoy
I was recently asked: Do you really think art is all that important? It was followed by; most of it seems like a frivolous waste of time. I was honestly taken back by the question. Was this gentleman seriously questioning the importance of art, or was he making a commentary on what he was viewing? The truth is, art is more than just a practice – it is a part of life. Art is quite connected to the human experience.
From ancient time to the present-day, indigenous groups from all over the world have been mixing art and their traditional artifacts or rituals without conscious thought. From the earliest cave paintings, it has been a primary way of expression and has become an essential ingredient to empower the hearts of people.
When I posed the question in my title this week, I was not just referring to the visual arts. I am referring to all the arts. Although I generally write about a visual art subject, the “creative spirit” spans all aspects of life, and art encompasses all kinds of creative expression: music, dance, literature, design, theater, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, crafts. Art is any creative work of a human being. Which was my short answer to the gentleman who asked the question.
Most people have an appreciation for art, if not by creating it, by enjoying it. It is integral in our culture. It provides us with a deeper understanding of our history, a self-awareness of where we have been and where we can go. It plays an important role in our modern lives in that it expresses individuality, creativity, and feeling. It is what enhances our world and our lives. It is part of the cultural heritage of every human being.
The purpose of works of art vary, according to medium and the creators message. It may be to communicate ideas: political, spiritual, or philosophical. It could be aesthetic; to explore nature, individual perceptions, give pleasure, or to generate strong emotions. It is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known. Art is not a thing — it is a way…” (Elbert Hubbard)
The “physical function” arts are probably the easiest for members of society to understand. Works of art that are created to perform some service and have physical functions like architecture, any of the crafts, and industrial design. But, “The Arts” stand their ground in all areas!
When activists show images of children suffering from poverty or oppression in their campaigns, it is the art of photography pulling the heartstrings of society. The physical image speaks where words cannot.
When one attends a concert, play, or poetry reading, does not one come away with some feelings or knowledge they did not have before? Do we not grow and enhance our being by participating in these cultural happenings?
We hang pictures in our homes because something in that piece of art speaks to us of things felt in our heart, which we want to be reminded of each day. They enhance our living space, illuminate our inner lives, and enrich our emotional world.
The arts also have a positive impact on our economy. They are part of our “National and World Treasures”: The art and artists represented in our museums. The music and composers that reflect the times and have become part of our history. The Literature and writers whose work will be read for ages. The dancers and actors who have portrayed history and life, which added to our culture and brought joy to so many over the years. And, I have not yet mentioned the health benefits, from healing to instilling feelings of well-being.
So, yes Mr. “Gray T Shirt”; Art is important! We are not always going to agree with an artists interpretation of something. We may not like the style the artist chooses to express his or her feeling about something, but it is just that…his or her personal expression. No persons feeling are frivolous. They may not be the same as yours but they deserve the right to exist. Diversity makes the world interesting.