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The Big Question: What have we learned?

Take a look at which terms and ideas came up most often in our discussion.
Now that our discussion on art is wrapping up, have we learned anything unexpected along the way, or come to any new conclusions? Why is art important, after all? Here’s what you said:

“Art is a way of talking to strangers.”

  • So says the artist Marlene Dumas, and many of you agreed. At its heart, visual art is a basic form of communication among human beings; it brings us together and allows us to understand one another, strangers and friends alike.
  • What can art communicate? Art is singular in that it can communicate the things we can’t necessarily see or articulate through spoken or written speech; it acknowledges that which is hidden to the naked eye; and it has a transformative power that allows us to access parts of ourselves and the human experience we might not otherwise be able to know.
  • Art can also be used to communicate an artist’s intention, and some of you believe it is important to convey these original intentions with his/her work along with the finished piece.
  • It communicates truth in different ways than, say, the maths and sciences – so perhaps art can convey experiences more authentically than these other fields and approaches.

What’s the value of art? Or should we even bother trying to assign it value?

  • Many of you stressed that art is about a freedom of expression that isn’t tied to any particular utility or value – it doesn’t necessarily have to serve a purpose, and it can exist for its own sake.
  • At the same time, art has the power to bring meaning and purpose to humanity by serving as a mirror to culture. And while it might seem difficult to try and assign it the kind of value we associate with math and the hard sciences, we recognise that value isn't always something so easily quantifiable, and that art provides value in its reflective and process-driven capacities.
  • “In other words – art is important because it emphasises process and experience in an outcome and value-obsessed world.” (Lindsay)

Art is ambiguous: is that a detriment or benefit?

  • Art cannot be easily defined – and because of this quality some people might be quick to judge and dismiss it. As Jeff points out, this makes it all the more important to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to learn. And perhaps this makes its inclusion in educational curricula even more essential.
  • We explored the notion of mindfulness and how this quality is essential to a full experience of art, and how this approach can even give a therapeutic quality to artistic engagement.
  • In talking about art, you brought up visual artists like Pablo Picasso, David Hockney, and Marlene Dumas, but you also turned to writers, thinkers, and even musical artists: William Shakespeare, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jorge Luis Borges, Joseph Conrad, and even Ludwig van Beethoven were among the examples used to illustrate your ideas. Art extends far beyond the visual and we might conclude that the many forms of art reach out to and support one another as they strive to answer (or provoke) existential questions.

But all in all, art is indispensable

  • Considering the power of art to communicate, express, and transform, nearly all of you agreed that art is somehow essential to us as human beings.
  • Art offers its viewers a sense of connection and even guidance, and for its makers it can bring meaning into a world that can often feel chaotic and meaningless. Between and among its observers and makers, art can forge relationships and a deep sense of understanding.
  • Art is “life itself. Like love or death. Impossible to endure without it, indissoluble from human kind.” (Pablo)
  • “It seems to be as necessary as the oxygen we breathe – without it we are less alive.” (Anne)
In short, art is an inextricable part of our lives that offers connection, insight, and expression. As JoAnn so concisely put it: “Art makes us think more deeply, strive more intently, and feel joy more profoundly.”
A big thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion so far – we had participants joining us from all over the world, from Buenos Aires to Las Vegas, from London to Kabul, and beyond. We welcome you to continue sharing your thoughts with us and the community, and we look forward to seeing many more engaging discussions on art.

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