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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is Art Necessary for Society?

An older lady, that I met a couple weeks ago, believes that the government should not support art/the arts at all.  It came up because she was in favor of cutting the National Endowment for the Arts (an article from Psychology Today).  I was outraged but managed to stay calm.  I decided to research some reasons why this view is inaccurate and detrimental to our society. 

Innovation as a Nation
My watercolor based on the Weary Blues by
Langston Hughes.  The Harlem Renaissance is
a grand example of the arts playing a huge role
in society.
I began by research the benefits of art in American Society and found that Americans are always wishing we were as smart as those in China, but realized that we forget that the Chinese are always wondering where America’s creativity and innovation come from.  It is clear that our creativity and innovation do not come from getting rid of the arts (I am focusing on Fine art because that is what I am familiar with but I do think that many art forms fit in this broad category of having the ability to generate creative minds) in our society.  Art influences society though politics/political movements, religion, the sciences, and cultural awareness.  Art can have both positive and negative cultural effects on society, which is a reason individuals should be visually literate.

Political and Social Change

Art is a large part of what drives political movements.  The Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Rights Movement, Obama’s Campaigns, and Nazi Germany are all significant examples of how art has driven a campaign or movement.  I was fortunate to be in ancient Art History Survey 1 during Obama’s presidential campaign.  My art history professor knew the art historian who was working on the campaign.  Many of the common poses and photographs of Obama were taken directly from ancient sculptures and famous political stances such as the Orators Pose.  Obama’s campaign also used a new graphic design style (both Shepard Fairey and the campaign logo were significant advances in graphic design for presidential elections).  In addition to politics, art can influence culture and does everyday through design.
One of my Native American Posters.

Not only is nearly everything that we purchase designed but it is often packaged (everything from Great Value pasta, to your new laptop, to these elaborate package examples.) The Go Green and the Pink Breast Cancer Awareness campaigns are good examples of ways that consumers will purchase something based solely on an add campaign without really understanding the marketing scheme.  What exactly is Go Green?  Have you read the fine print on the Breast Cancer Awareness products?  Even though both are great causes, you are paying for a design/marketing campaign, often times more than you're paying for the cause.  In addition design centric companies, such as Target and Nike, even Nokia (in other countries) tend to do better when the economy is bad than even the Fortune 500 businesses. (Bill Gardner spoke on this at the University of Wyoming in the Fall of 2010).

Religious Education
Religion and education are affected by art as well.  The first Bible stories read by the general public were stained glass windows and sculptures, followed by the illuminated manuscripts and Moralized Bible.  They were used to educate the general public about sin, confession, labors of the month and other important aspects of Medieval life.  Relics, altars, Power Point slides, color, dance, drama and music all play a role in religion, education and everyday life.
Music does possess a major role in religious and spiritual practices in the United States, as well as education.  If we stop teaching and supporting the arts, what will happen to students?  According to my Dad’s Doctoral Thesis, students’ grades will plummet and it is currently evident that students who are in band have significantly higher grades than students who are not.

So are the Arts Imperative to American Culture?
There is no doubt that the arts impact our society, culture and everyday lives.  The arts improve and generate creativity.  The maths and sciences are not nearly as significant with out the creativity to use and apply the technical knowledge.  Why should the government not support the betterment of the individual and whole community through the arts?
Zines from a Workshop in Baltimore
I will be posting on some of the impacts I have seen the arts have on a variety of individuals in the future.  Here are some more interesting articles, groups, and art projects that relate directly to life and American culture.
Article from Whitman College

Zines are another way art can be political. Riot Girl. Zine Library. Punk Zine Archive.

Here is some of my politically geared artwork. Grace is Queer. Native Americans and Indian Reservations.

If you know of any organizations that help people by using the arts or that support the arts, please post them below.  If you can think of any more ways in which the arts affect the lives of individuals or an entire society, please post them below as well.


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