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Creative Convergence Highlights Benefits of Arts Education

Max Donner

Los Angeles took a cue from the success of Art Miami and scheduled six art shows in the space of one week last month. These six shows featured the most popular collecting categories–fine art, photography, prints and posters, modern art, contemporary art, and “affordable art.”

A fortunate coincidence put these excellent art exhibitions directly next to two large commercial trade shows that demonstrated the value of artistic talent in America’s economy. These were the California Gift Show and the Insignia Sportswear Show.

These shows provided hundreds of examples of the economic value of art by showing how quality art and design can transform a five dollar piece of canvas into a fifty dollar giclee print or a five hundred dollar oilskin for elite yacht racing syndicates.

The commercial trade shows also demonstrated the important role that applied art plays in supporting the development of leading edge technology and the creation of good jobs that support local economies.

An overview of the exhibitions at the California Gift Show and the Insignia Sportswear Show quickly showed that commodity-like, undecorated consumer goods like umbrellas, picture frames, sports team uniforms, and caps do not cost much to make and do not generate much quality employment. The same products converted into upscale or luxury consumer products with original art and sophisticated artistic customization command attention of trade show visitors and quickly fill order books.

This reality of consumer behavior drives innovation which can come full circle to benefit the arts community by building a market for custom inks, more sophisticated silkscreening technology, production of art tiles, more advanced photography printing techniques, and a host of other applied technologies. The California Gift Show paid tribute to the contribution of artists by presenting a working artists’ studio with four painters demonstrating their techniques at the entrance to the exhibition.

An overview of the art shows provided a helpful reminder that commercial assignments are often the foundations from which fine artists build.

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec worked together with printers to create hundreds of advertising posters for bicycles, equestrian events, and cabarets. Norman Rockwell began working as a commercial illustrator for magazines as a teenager. The oil paintings he created for the publishers’ final cover choices are now coveted by art collectors.

A 1919 Rockwell cover for Collier’s was recently featured on Antiques Roadshow with a value estimate of $500,000. An iconic 1930 Rockwell cover design for the Saturday Evening Post was featured at the Los Angeles Fine Art Show with an asking price over $3 million.

Comparing and contrasting the art shows and the commercial shows is a good way to understand how art and commerce can complement one another and enhance the quality of results.

Several standouts at the art shows included works for which the artists created their own paper or customized the chemical additives in art glass to produce a distinctive image. Custom paper production processes such as bamboo paper and gingko paper have been adapted by the commercial world for upscale consumer products.

The sportswear show provided several good examples of how well trained artists and designers can innovate with texture to produce both superior products and more creative art.

This creative convergence also underscored the importance of arts education in helping America to maximize the benefits of its creative economy.

Attorney Tom Holliday participated in a panel of art collectors at the Los Angeles Art Show and presented his experience from the perspective of a trustee at a leading engineering school, Clarkson University.

Holliday confirmed that the creative thinking processes from learning about art and music are valuable in the education of talented engineers and gives them better creativity to think about engineering and technology projects.

This creative convergence shows one more way that an investment in arts education is an investment in America’s future.

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