Today’s topic comes from a friend and follower. I have inserted the prompt so that readers can have an understanding of where this post is headed:
For a blog topic, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the arts and whether or not we are constantly progressing our artistic designs in both a visual, musical, and performance sense as a human race, or whether we are slowly but surely leaving behind some of the most artistic generations and creations which were the pinnacles of art form (for example Beethoven, Picasso, etc)
Initially, when I first read Jordan’s question I thought that we have slacked a bit when it comes to progressing the artistic mind of our generation. I’m sure the majority have seen in the news that we are constantly cutting funding for art, music, and dance classes within our schools. The need to advance areas such as math and science have left the artistic areas falling short of funding. I’m not saying that all areas aren’t feeling the pinch, but the arts seem to have been hit the hardest because these areas don’t fit within the core of a students’ learning.
Many schools require a student to at least take an introductory class in some way related to the arts, and that could be painting, music, or theatre. Take your pick. However, it rarely is pursued beyond this required class. I think that there is blame to be placed on the way we manage our distribution of resources in our schools, but I also think that we stunt the growth of our artistic children in middle school and high school because our culture does not place great emphasis or praise upon these children.
As a child who loved acting I pursued it throughout middle school and high school, and while I went to a small middle school, we had no real place to designate for acting. The theatre doubled as our cafeteria, and the only lighting design that we had was to turn off the light at the back of the cafeteria. We used our imaginations, and for the most part, we did just fine. And yet, we had nice lockers and a decent field for many of our sports.
We have long since praised the athlete for his achievements on the field. We see this in movies and how the athlete is always admired while the artistic child is generally the one attracting the negative attention. If we continue to let this type of stereotypical treatment of our artistically inclined children to go unchecked by his or her fellow students, but also by the school’s distribution of resources, then yes I do think we have let our structured teaching of artistic students to fall by the way side.
Unlike other countries who seem to have a better understanding of artistic importance (some have gone so far as to place their nation’s best artists on their currency) I think that the U.S. has not had enough time to develop its own artists. Do I think they will appear on our currency? No, because as previously discussed, our culture does not praise those who seek artistic endeavors. Even if our structured pursuit of artistic betterment is falling by the way side I think that we are still finding ways to grow.
It does not take classroom for a person to know that they are passionate about art. We have privately run studios, acting workshops, and a multitude of small business that are dedicated to pursuing the advancement of art. It may not be so evident in our school systems, but outside of that sphere growth is still occurring. By leaving the academic frame behind I find that people are more inclined to find those who share similar interests. People are growing artistically because there are more opportunities outside of the traditional norm that allow them to pursue their passions.
Moving to the second half of your question, as to whether we have left the most artistic generations behind, I think that we need to stop living in the past and placing so much clout upon those who came before us. Granted, Beethoven and Picasso are names that should be admired, but not elevated to the point of near godliness. If we continue to live in the shadow of those who came before us and state that those people are empirically the best artists of their field, how does that translate to the mind of those trying to become great themselves?
Those people may be great, but their greatness was not earned without a great deal of hard work. We should celebrate the creativity and ingenuity of those artists, but do so with the understanding that our generation is equally great. We may use previous artists as inspiration and motivation to do the best we can, but we should not assume that we can never equal their greatness, or even surpass it one day. If we are to live with the assumption that we will never be greater than those who came before us then we will never grow.
So, I think that we need to explore other avenues of artistic development outside of traditional norms because I think those traditional avenues are slowing becoming ineffective and more detrimental to our artistic achievements. I also think that by assuming the greatness of previous generations’ artistic achievements to be the pinnacle of a certain form we are cutting down our budding artists without giving them a chance to see the potential in themselves. It may not be the same type of artistic growth because we have a larger range of creative awareness now, but we are certainly growing none the less.
Time is the truest indicator of greatness, so doesn’t the judge of what is great today fall on the shoulders of those after us?