Updated: Mar 25, 2021
"What is Art for?" is an often asked question without any common acceptance of answer.
For some, it reflects ourselves; for others, mere exteriorization of contemporary values of the society. For some, it's a wastage of time or money; for others, connection to the intimate sense of the power of ideas. Art has remained an integral part of our lives by navigating the corridors of appreciation and skepticism for thousands of years.
This integration of Arts must go further to our learning institutions. Rather than a mere piece of beauty, Art has the potential of shaping our minds. Plutarch said, "The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled." Art can be a catalyst for the fire by helping us connect to our mind through our sense perceptions, hopes, & desires, taking us beyond in the creative, imaginative space free from "So what?" towards "What if?"
Art evokes emotion. Emotions foster creativity.
"Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth." – Pablo Picasso.
A resonating piece of Art can trigger a deluge of emotions breaking down the logical mind's barriers and connecting us to the more profound sense of beauty. Art is not just canvases and sculptures for museums or galleries, but a physical manifestation of emotions in various forms. Beethoven's music, the pantheon of Rome, or poetry of Whitman; all are pieces of Art that unpretentiously evokes their purpose even centuries after.
In ancient Greece, around the 5th century BCE, the tragedies were enacted as a form of theater with an objective of purification and purgation of emotions, particularly pity, and fear. Catharsis's concept helped the public learn from the stories of central characters, their success, and their mistakes at an emotional level. When Oedipus blinded himself upon realizing that he has unknowingly married his mother, the audience gasped at the thought that bad things can happen to good people evoking a plethora of unlived emotions and demonstrating the potentiality of life anyone can be subjected to.
The same purging is required in learning environments to demonstrate life's possibilities in myriad forms so that the latent sense perceptions can be evoked. Whitehead, an early 20th-century philosopher, said, "learning is the acquisition of the art of utilization of knowledge, by utilizing mean relating it to sense perceptions, feelings, hopes, desires, and mental activities." We need to move learning from collecting the scraps of information to the receptiveness to beauty and humane feeling.
Art is our tool.
The receptiveness to beauty through Art is also a vehicle to take an adventure in ideas through imagination. During Romanticism, imagination was elevated to a position as a supreme faculty of mind with a call to appreciate the beauty of invisible and unseen aspects of nature through deeper appreciation. Imagination is about connecting to something unseen is a creative endeavor that unfolds without obligation to a set of established rules or patterns. It can be found in everyday life like daydreaming, cooking, dancing, music, to highly researched scientific theories.
We perceive the potentialities of new creations that have not yet manifested through imagination, providing us the new blueprints that have not existed before. The current education system encourages clinging to formulas and repeating slogans, which awakens us intellectually and leaves us incomplete and uncreative. The harnessing of each participants' individual creative potential should focus on our learning environments to recreate the world's canvas. Learning is more than training the mind; it is about evoking into life wisdom and beauty, to re-enchant us in the universe we live in.