Five Reasons Why We Need Art

“If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.”
~ Edward Hopper

Edward Hopper - Eleven AM

Art, in its many forms, exists in every community, every culture, and every country. Art has been created since time began, evidenced in cave paintings and rock art, and in today’s world we know that art can be a major economic force, yet we continue to question the worth of art.

Often I have heard someone dismiss a work of art by saying, “I could do that” or “I don’t understand it”. Perhaps not placing value on something that we ourselves could make or expecting things to be easily understood speaks to the loss of thoughtfulness and creativity in our world and only magnifies our need for the arts.

Here are five reasons why I believe we need art:

1. Art is a Natural Human Behavior: Creating art is a primal behavior. Children, the world over, instinctively make. Every culture has art. Like language and laughter, art is a fundamental human behavior. Put very simply, art is a part of who we are.  We need art because it makes us complete human beings.

2. Art is Communication: Art, like language, is a medium to express ideas and to share information.  Art offers us a method to communicate what we may not necessarily fully understand or know how to express. Art helps us to share thoughts, ideas and visions that may not be able to be articulated any other way. We need art to have a full range of expression.

3. Art is Healing: Creating or experiencing art can relax and sooth us or it may enliven and stimulate us. The process of creating art engages both the body and the mind and provides us with time to look inward and reflect.  Experiencing art also gives us reason to think and be reflective or may inspire us to get up and dance.  Art provides a release, a place for reflection and away to engage our whole selves. .We need art to keep us healthy.

4. Art Tells Our Story: Art is a history lesson, an historical record, a preservation of culture, and an autobiography all in one.  Art documents events and experiences and allows us a richer understanding of history. Art reflects cultural values, beliefs and identity and helps to preserve the many different communities that make up our world. Art chronicles our own lives and experiences over time. We need art to understand and to share our individual and shared history.

5. Art is a Shared Experience: The creation of art is a collective activity. Art forms such as dance, theatre and choir all require a group of artists and an audience. Even the solitary painter or poet relies upon the craft of the paint-maker or book-binder to help create art. Art offers us a reason to come together and share in an experience. We need art to keep us connected.

Four Ways Art Has Added Value to My life

In kicking off this blog I though I would share a bit about what art means to me and how art has added value to my life.

Art plays an important role in my life and I truly believe that art has helped me to become a better person.  Engaging with art, and by that I mean making art, viewing art or participating in an art event, has helped me to become a more patient and thoughtful person, has opened my eyes to different perspectives and has helped me recognize things that I have in common with others.  Art has added value to my life in so many ways, both big and small, that it is difficult to express all of what art means to me.

I thought I would start by sharing 4 ways in which art has added value to my life. If art has enriched your life or if what I post raises ideas for you please share your thoughts.

Shared Experiences

In my life art has often been part of a shared experience. Growing up I spent a lot of time in my home town museum with my Mom and my sister. This was not because my family was into the arts, no, this was mostly because we were poor and the museum was free.  I remember talking with my Mom about different colors, looking closely at paintings with my sister to see small details that only a child might find interesting and laughing over the paint splattered Pollack painting. I am really thankful that the museum offered a place for this shared experience.

Telling Stories
For me art has been a great storyteller, often offering me a message or history lesson in a way that made me feel as if I had discovered a meaning beyond the simple joy of the art work. As a young girl I think Dolly Parton’s song “Coat of Many Colors” was one of my favorites and the first songs that I can remember having a message. As a child, this song helped me to understand how it could feel to be picked on  and helped open the door to my comprehending bigger issues like classism and poverty. To this day I appreciate a good story song.

Finding, Creating and Preserving Beauty
I do not think it is a stretch to say that humans are drawn to beauty, what we define as beautiful may be different, but it is human nature to be attracted to people, places and things that are beautiful to us.  Art has helped me to find or create beauty in my every day life. When scouring the thrift store I look at old end tables and ask myself, “How can I repaint this? Does this have good lines?”.  Art has given me the tools to make my world a more beautiful place, and once my everyday objects became more beautiful to me I was more inclined to care for them, leading me to waste less and appreciate more.

Time for Thought
Through the years I have come to use the art making process as a way to create time and space for myself to be alone. Making art or crafting has been my way of quieting my mind and focusing my thoughts. I should acknowledge that I am far from a skilled artist, my art making usually involves colored pencils or, if I’m feeling really brave, charcoal. Really, it’s the process that is important. The letting go, the focus, the creative energy – those are the elements of art making that are meaningful. My end product, eh, not so much.

These are just a few of the ways that art has been meaningful in my life. Now it’s your turn.  What does art mean to you?

Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it
~ Confucius