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The Value of Art

I was asked recently by a student working on a senior english project if I would respond to some questions about values and art. I thought they would be good material for this blog as well.

My senior English class is doing a research paper on What does it mean to be human? The slant that I would like to take is with the music/arts and philosophy or the benefits aspect. For some of our primary sources, we need to have three interviews of professionals, not any one at our school. As I have done some research your name came into my field and I have a few questions that I would like to ask.

1. How are human values materialized in art?

Our values are a foundational element of who we are as individuals, as a society and as a species. Our values influence every choice we make from what we wear, what we eat, where we work, how we play, ultimately how we live our lives. It is no different for the art we create. The artist chooses a subject or a medium based on their personal interests and desires. Every stroke of a pen or brush or chisel is a choice the artist makes. Implicit in each mark is the motivation behind that choice. Those motivations and desires pass through the artists filters of values and beliefs before becoming that choice, thereby becoming manifest in the world and communicated both implicitly and explicitly in the physical work of art.

2. With cultural aspects, How does where you live, or your heritage affect our value on art?

Clearly the answer to this question is as unique as every individual and culture. At first thought, one might think that if an individual grows up in a culture or a family that values art and creativity that the individual would have those values so ingrained in the make up of their psychology that they would have no choice put to also value art and creativity. And where in many cases this is often true and a primary influence, in other instances it is not. I met a young man a few years ago in an art class. Let’s call him Mark. Mark was defiant and argumentative regarding every idea about the value of art that was presented to him. I asked Mark why he was taking this class if he felt so strongly that their was little value to art. He told me the story of how his father was an artist. That their family travelled all over the country as his father pursued artist residencies and exhibits and the other opportunities that artists explore. Mark then told me how he resented his father and art in general for the lack of foundation in his childhood. So I would make the case again that our cultural has a huge impact in how we value art, just not always in the way we might at first think.

3. Why do you believe that people will spend many amounts of money on specific piece of art?

Again the motivations are as varied as the individuals. Some are just looking for an investment. Like a stock or bond. Something that will hold its monetary value and ultimately appreciate in financial value. Some for the cultural value. The ownership of a piece of culture provides them with a sense of satisfaction or meaning. Some because they want to decorate their lives with objects of beauty or status. Others because they experience an emotional or intellectual connection with a work of art. Some as a memory of a place, person or experience. Whatever the motivation it says something about the values of the collector.

4. How do you believe that people benefit from art?

I believe that people benefit from art both from the creation of art and from the appreciation of art. Creativity is one of the primary gifts of the human species. At its base level creativity is life. We have the ability to tap into that life stream and channel it to manifest our hopes and dreams. The pure expression of that is no easy task. It is a task that few ever succeed in accomplishing. It is what I believe is the ultimate goal of art. Art is a teacher for us to grow and actualize our potential as human beings.

The appreciation of art also provides a tap into that life stream. Perhaps not in as direct an experience. A deep heartfelt appreciation for a work of art can be equally as transformative as the creation of a work of art. I have a work of art that I purchased recently from a local artist because the painting reminds me about a shadow facet of myself. The work reminds me what to be aware of in myself and to have faith in who I am and who I can be.

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