Why art matters

IMG_3789We live in times where a great tension exists. It’s true – people in much of the world appreciate the products and outcomes associated with art and design. Who doesn’t love beautifully designed visuals appearing on the screens of our electronic devices, the power of a transformational work of art, the soaring intensity of viewing a space of architectural integrity and genius? Yet, the value of art and design is questioned almost continuously. Art schools are being closed, creative art departments in universities are under threat, and maintaining an affordable studio practice is increasingly difficult for many artists living in large cities.

Mark Davis writes eloquently about the culture wars ravaging countries like Australia. He talks about the idea of a divided society that has been built – a cultural ‘elite’ and the rest of Australia (a ‘frustrated mainstream’). ‘Two tribes face off in a war of values’ as Davis puts it. I wonder and ask – does this sectioning off of culture have some bearing on the slippery, ever-changing value placed on art matters? Perhaps. But more on this in later posts.

I believe that art is not just the domain of a privileged cultural elite but one in which anyone can appreciate and participate. Art is experienced by many, every day, through even the most ordinary of encounters. Art is a way for us to communicate something of how we see the world – perhaps some glimpse or insight that shows a way of being or understanding. Or an avenue to express beauty, sorrow, ugliness, the unexpected, the delightful, the visually pleasurable.

And art is a way to bring JOY into our lives. Which might sound a bit naff, I know. But I dare you to think about it, just for a moment.

Most people would probably agree that a little more joy in their lives would go a long way. A little more sparkle, some might call it happiness. I prefer not to use that term as I think it’s a tad overrated. That feeling of loveliness/glee/delight often sparked by wonder, that’s what most of us are after. A little more of that. I truly believe art can create a path for more of this in our lives.

Art can help us on an individual level but it has a much broader capacity. It can help us connect with others, and to see the world differently. It can encourage us to be empathetic or to flip our thinking on its head. Art can push us to question everything we take for granted.

And that’s why it’s important.

So yes, art matters a great deal. Now perhaps even more so than the past. Now especially with so much fear and anxiety and chaos happening in the world. Art can help us understand the human condition and its relationship to the planet, and with so much confusion and violence occurring on a global scale, greater understanding and connection is what we all need.

So…welcome to the first post of Art Matters Now. You can read a bit more here about what I hope this space will become over time. While I’ve called this blog Art Matters Now I’ll also be exploring design and craft. It would’ve just made the blog name ridiculously cumbersome to have included all of that in one name. But it is a blog about the value and place of art, design and craft in our lives. I’ll be using ‘art’ as shorthand for all three at times. And while I know that this might annoy design buffs in particular, I will be posting specifically about design too. So there’s my disclaimer.

Keep reading to find out why art matters and how it can help you be a more curious, wondrous and connected person, and perhaps find (or re-find) more joy in the world around you.