art is not essential

by     /    March 17, 2007   

I’m in an online class with a group of artists, and the other day someone mentioned that they believed that art was essential part of society. Everyone agreed, but of course we did — we’re artists after all! But I’ve been mulling this idea over some more, and as is my nature, a contrarian thought occurred to me: that art is not essential. And that its lack of essentialness is exactly what makes art so important. Most of what we do in life is somehow related to the basics of survival: food, lodging, and shelter. Art — making it and seeing it — is one of the few things we can do in life that rises above these basics. It’s fragility, transience, and ephemeral qualities remind us that there is more to life that surviving. That there is more to see than what is in front of us. That there is more to think about than the next meal or paycheck. It is one of the few things that lets us purely exist and be, for a moment, completely human.

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Comments on 'art is not essential'

Curtis Verdun  (March 18th, 2007):

Art not essential? Sure, art isnÂ’t essential. Gasoline is an essential. A car could simply roll downhill or be pushed. We could live without art, if we don’Â’t mind pushing ourselves through life. Seriously, art is absolutely essential. Natural aesthetics, inherent in nature has a critical impact on animals and humans. This natural art and the art that we create are the sources of our awe and laughter and inspiration. These things are essential to our psychological and emotional health. Is what makes life alive, itÂ’s what makes us happy and sad, calm and excited, melancholy and dramatic.

paula  (March 24th, 2007):

I’m not eloquent or well versed by any means in this subject, but I would like to say I have wondered who really needs art many times (only since becoming an artist). I have heard people say how important art is and never understood or believed that.
I would say that I now believe it more and more based on various things I have heard and seen. Awhile back I saw on cable a documentary about the burroughs in NY. And they gave example after example of how the ‘seedy’ areas are usually brought back to life first with restaurants and art galleries. Thats it! And I keep my eyes and ears open; I am learning that more and more throughout the country, it is ALWAYS art that comes in there first. Art brings people together, communities etc. So I would say for the first time, here and now, that I do believe art is an essential part of a THRIVING society. hows that? An essential part in creating a vibrant and healthy society. dare I say….

raincoaster  (April 10th, 2007):

An outstanding post. Art is essential to feed the soul, but feeding the soul is considered inessential. I love what Jeanette Winterton said: “Why have we submitted to a society that makes creativity a privilege when to each of us it comes as a birthright?”

LynnS  (April 10th, 2007):

I believe that art is essential to our survival. While we attempt to define art we look to our own perceptions and we recognize that there are a number of concluding definitions. We do recognize that art serves our senses, however, so we can acknowledge that the removal of art creates a sensory void. To deprive us of sensory input, we become starved and depraved. As Curtis said, natural aesthetics are essential to our well-being.

I see art as being critical to our survival. Forms of art can include conversation, wrinkled faces, dance, story-telling, music, coupling, painting, mountainscapes, rocks/stones, water movement, clouds passing….the list is varied and infinite. We don’t have to ‘make it’ to have it. We are, thankfully, surrounded by art. No matter what a person’s perception of art is, when deprived of art we see and feel silence. All stimulus has been removed. At that point, any organism withers.

Hique  (April 20th, 2007):

“Natural aesthetics” is not necessarily related to art.

The aesthetics perception of the animals is unrelated to any form of artistic expression (art). Animals don’t see or make or have art in their brains or genes.

I guess the margin for discussion is more centered at the definition of “essential” than at the definition of “art”. What is really essential? For some people Jewelery is essential…

I agree with the author. Art is completely human, and it’s nice because of this. It’s special, not essential.

I am happy to see a nice article and discussion…

Best regards to everyone