This is in response to a question that I decided I couldn’t answer through a simple message. It would just take too long. The question was: why is art important?
I think art’s goal is, at the surface, entertainment. Maybe that’s not what you wanted to hear, but it’s true. We enjoy it for our own sake. Artists, both musicians and painters, dancers and actors, do their art because there are things they would like to see, and nobody knows what they would like to read or see or hear better than they do.
And that’s where I have to go a bit past the surface. I think if I get to the heart of why I make art, it gets slightly egotistical. I like to think that I can truly change people’s minds. Seriously, I do. I act like I can make society think about itself and its wrongs if I write it as it is, showing all the faults in grisly detail. Maybe I can. I don’t really know. I mean to say that it has happened before. As I recall, one of Picasso’s works influenced the rest of the world to see the horrors of what was going on down in Austria in WW2. I like to believe I can make people walk back into reality and think about what would happen if they kept living their lives as mundanely as they do. I’d like them to question everything. And they do.
You see, the world itself is art. Can you imagine a world without anything but the absolute essentials? Perhaps it would not exist, because a universe is not really necessary. Nothing is necessary. But from the unnecessary comes beauty, and that is art. We are art. Every human being and animal and everything in existence is artwork. The universe itself is naught but God himself throwing what was not necessary into the utter blackness and making light. Why? Because why not?
Art is the foundation of society. It does not exist without it. Art is something that every single society can understand. You can understand how someone who speaks another language and lives in a completely different place was feeling just by listening to a song. You don’t even have to understand the words even if it includes it. It is the ultimate and greatest form of communication.
Yes, art is entertaining. We are entertained by books, splashes of ink on paper, like the Hunger Games. But did you know that the Hunger Games, a fictional book, is banned in some countries? Why? Because of this: art is more than just entertainment. Art is inspiration. And those countries’ governments that ban it fear that it will inspire its citizens to rebel against them. And I’ll be damned if they aren’t right. Art is a scary thing that way.
Art is motivation. Have you ever heard a song that came on at just the right time? I have. I have friends who owe their continuing existence to a song that gave them the courage to keep plodding on in this life when it didn’t seem quite so beautiful and wonderful to do so. Art is so much more than entertainment. So much more.
Art helps us to think in ways we are just not used to thinking. As Valerie Strauss said in an article on this same subject:
“Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? How will my character react in this situation? Without even realizing it kids that participate in the arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems. All this practice problem solving develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding. This will help develop important problem-solving skills necessary for success in any career.”
That’s from the Washington Post article “Top Ten Skills Children Learn From The Arts”. I know that’s not properly cited, but this isn’t a freaking essay.
But it isn’t just for children. Art is for all. With art comes awareness. With art comes respect. With art comes understanding. With art comes an outlet for those who otherwise would not have one.
There’s a reason the arts are called visual communication. Art is expression. Without art, we would have no ultimate purpose, no higher calling. There’s more to art than just curricular needs, although it does help with school. It helps with problem solving and creativity and working with others. But it also helps us to grow spiritually and mentally. It helps us to breach gaps that otherwise could not be breached. There are things that cannot be said in monotone. There are some stories that must be on paper, some that must be sung, and some that must be plastered with paint onto a canvas.
There’s a bigger reason that all the religious books have metaphorical pieces to them. There’s a reason Christ spoke in parables. We need more than the physical to help us learn what we cannot see, taste or touch. We need art to help us understand emotion, religion, thoughts.
I think I’ll end there, because if I continue this, nobody would still be reading it. But maybe I’ve helped. I’d like to think I have done some good with this, and maybe answered a few questions. And if you’ve read this all the way to the end, and think you have more that needs to be said, please add to it!