The arts have a crucial role to play Part 4 How artists contribute to positive change
November 30, 2012
continued from previous post, Organisations need to change but so do artists
For the first post in this extended book review click here.
How arts and artists can and do contribute significantly to positive change
The idea that the artist’s only job is to make things to hang on a wall or put on a pedestal is rapidly becoming old news.
Contrary to the thought that artists are grown ups who make vast amounts of money (or starve in garrets) by playing around making art ‘that my 3 year old could do’, artists through their training in creative process and experience develop important skills. And these areas of expertise are actually vital to remedying the problems our society is in.
Intellect, logic, and rational thinking have led to the imbalance and breakdown of many of our systems.
In his book, A whole new mind, Daniel Pink argues that a quiet revolution is now taking place where the right-brained skills of pattern recognition, empathy, design, meaning, play, etc will be the tools used to build a more humane and sustainable future. Artists and other creative thinkers are in demand from corporations, government agencies, healthcare, education, to help them think outside the usual parameters of their systems, and in so doing, help renew and vitalise them.
Artists continually ask, ‘What could we change here? Why not try this? ‘
The artist’s core expertise is to improve on the previous state.
The creative process starts when a question or problem is posed, it progresses when the artist sets out for a basically unknown goal, making mistakes and correcting course until a solution is reached. In these explorations they hit on new insights and solutions which couldn’t have been found within the situation that produced them. Also, because artists operate outside organisations and professions, they are free of the preconceptions which so often limit creative thinking in those places. This is why artists working, for example, with people with dementia, often get surprising results (lucid moments, deep contacts), with individuals whom the professionals have given up on.
Because the nature of the arts is to speak to the hearts of people, and to go past prejudices and conceptions, they are effective in bridge building between cultures and conflicting nations. They speak to the parts we have in common as humans and bypass debate and argument. So they bring people together in a common space with universal language of song, colour, play, and story.
When artists run projects in prisons, school rooms, or hospitals, these places and the people in them are left more vitalised than before the artists came. Arts enliven society and enable people to access their own creative abilities to begin to solve their own problems.
So the arts are vital to building healthy communities and healing damaged ones. I’ll expand on the community building aspect of the arts in the next and last post about the book.