What Is Art For?
Art lives at the heart of what makes us human.
What is art for?
If not to inspire and motivate us to our best, then what?
If not to engender hope, to light a candle in the darkness, then what?
If not to reflect back to us the brilliant human potential, causing uplift and upgrade, then what?
What is art for?
To give expression to that which cannot ‘speak’ for itself.
To wake us up, to wake up new perception, new ways of thinking, feeling, seeing, hearing, touching life.
To remind and reconnect us to the greater human journey.
To help give us a start.
To help us come to know ourselves!
Arts in Education is essential in so many ways. It is more than bringing a variety of art forms into a school to be taught alongside academics. The art form, whether it be music, sculpture, painting, drama, poetry or dance, is not meant to be the object of art. Art forms are the media of human expression. “To art” is the urge to give expression, to communicate, to give response through a media – whether that be through rhythm, movement, gesture, voice, feeling, sound, ideas, images…Art itself is at the core of human response! We cannot not ‘art’!
To get trained inside an art form is valuable as long as the emphasis is on the process, not the product. Children are better served if they learn to paint, dance, draw from the inside first, not from how it looks! Comparison critique and judgment have no place in early art training, none whatsoever!
The arts go so much deeper than this. It is all about the process first, not the product!
Navajo sand paintings are a good example of this. Colored sands are used to ‘paint’ within a pre-described space in order to represent and attract the influences needed to heal a person or a community. It is the process of drawing the images that heals. When it is over and the person is healed, the beautiful painting is wiped out, erased, never to be repeated – its function is fulfilled.
Still, you can go to the tourist markets and find ‘sand paintings’ frozen in varnish. But to the Navajo, the ‘art’ is entirely functional, it does something! It is in the doing of it, that it does something and once it’s done, it’s past tense, it’s irrelevant, it no longer lives.
Another example is music. What causes music in human beings precedes its various forms and styles expressed throughout the world and through history. Music is a primordial potency ever resonating through the feeling chambers of the human soul! It is a language unto itself. It is universal. It can reach the stars and touch the core of existence! Why would we limit its training and expression to a fixed period or style?
To dance is to move and be moved by the music of the great passion of life itself! To imitate a form as a first principle of training stifles the very spirit of dance. Children especially, need to move, to explore movement and being moved. We can supply a versatile alphabet of movement. But they need to explore what it can do, how it feels, what is possible!
Children need the opportunity to be exposed to various art forms, to have the hands-on experience. But with the emphasis on the process first!
People have forgotten how to make things. Everything is made for them nowadays. So taking up an art form or a craft is a valuable endeavour. The word handsome used to mean dexterous, being good with your hands, having some hands! Now it means looking good. Strange how meanings change!
When we ‘make’ something – a picture, a poem, a melody, a song, or perhaps a garden, a special ecology inside or outside, others can feel the process that created it and what that now attracts to itself. That is why art is so powerful. It is not the superficial appearance of something that makes it beautiful or profound or moving…It is what caused it to be in the first place!
What is art for?