What does art teach?

Macarena Ventosa. Professor. IE School of Arts & Humanities

5 October 2009

The culture of palpable results blinds us to the kind of deeper learning that helps us to understand the world we live in. Art is the answer.

In response to Arendt´s article on this blog about the relationship between today´s artists and environment and ethics, I would like to explore the question "Can artists save the world?" Trying to answer in environmental terms seems to me a superficial approach. Even the phrasing of the question bothers me, it´s like it´s taken out of a science fiction movie. The Oscar Wilde quote in the article, taken completely out of context, gives voice to what most people think about the arts today: "Art is useless". We live in a world where everything has to have a clear result.

I would like to rephrase the question and go to the core of the matter. A more suitable and philosophical question could be: What is Art for? Is it useless in today’s world?

Of course, contributing to this blog it is impossible to give a positive answer to that. To me the core is not art´s usability or material value but what it makes us feel and learn.

So I would leave it as: What do the ARTS teach that cannot be found anywhere else?

Let´s try to look at art from a different point of view and answer through some other questions.

How can any of us make sense from the world around us?

How can we gain confidence in our own ideas while respecting those of others?

How can we communicate easily, think both in and out of the box, collaborate with others, adapt to change, and solve complex problems?

How can we understand better our own feelings and those of others?

I am not trying to be original; there has been a lot of investigation on this field. A worthwhile summary in 10 lessons has been written by Elliot Eisner, professor emeritus of Art and Education at Stanford University. We should just take out the word children or student and apply each statement to anyone that believes that the arts are not elitist but makes all of us better people through a process of making sense out of the world and refining our sensibilities.


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