The Newest ABC of the Arts: A – Z
By: Frank Korb
In 2002 and again in 2007, John Tusa of The Guardian wrote the ABC’s of what was facing the world of the arts and how to deal with them. Inspired by his ABC’s, these are my 26 thoughts on the importance of support of the arts in school systems and communities across the country / world.
A is for Assessment – One’s self and the evaluation of others needs for evaluation and assessment of hard and dedicated work is essential in a well rounded and successful art education. With a focus on the learning of technique and terms as well as a space that allows for REAL exhibition – knowing that the work will earn a space on the white wall of the gallery – gives more credence to the learning and assessment of that learning.
B is for Business – The operations of what it takes to be an artist and to deal with a gallery (space) becomes a needed aspect of courses taught and give the students an understanding (or at least exposure) to the marketing, hanging, organizing, business end of being a professional artist. When the first show is up, opened, appreciated and critiques, and finally taken down, the learning of the hard work of being an artist in the truest sense of the job, is finally understood.
C is for Collaboration – Working with individuals from the arts community, gaining ideas and insights from professionals, and developing ideas together are skills and tools that are often looked for in professionals entering the working world. the gallery space would give students, faculty, and the community these opportunities to work together to reinforce the importance of the Arts in our growing community and culture.
D is for Development – Art making, speaking, and critiquing skills are abilities that are important aspects of the student’s education that need to be honed and developed. Art in the schools and community, and a space to share those artworks and skills allow for skills to be developed and delivered in an honorable and respectable way, thus allowing for artistic pride in one’s work to be reinforced.
E is for Education – The lessons and skills learned in the making of art are enhanced through the lessons and skills developed through the exhibition of art as the artist keeps the goals of presentation, conversation, and appreciation in mind as the work is created.
F is for Fine Art – The final product (but for the artist not the most important part of the art – that would be process) that the hard and dedicated work an artist strives to produce and be recognized for.
G is for Goals – It is all about setting them, working towards them, and then reflecting upon them as they are completed (or not completed). The presentation and conversation allows for the “wall” to be the Goal for the learning and a place for reflecting upon the ideas of whether or not those goals were accomplished in the process. What is it that we hope to learn from the process of making art? Is is only about the manipulation of a medium on a ground? Is it only about the plasticity of a clay or metal? Is it just the digital images put into the computer and reproduced through the printer? NO! The objectives are larger than the simple “art making” and revolve around History, Aesthetics, and Art Criticism.
H is for Holistic – It starts with concepts to practice, then practice to presentation, presentation to conversation, conversation to appreciation. The appreciation on a gallery wall is the final space that artists work long and hard to achieve recognition (one more step would be to the hands and walls of the arts patron – but that is another story).
I is for Importance – The importance of the visual arts is often overlooked, yet when walls need decorating, fliers need printing, shirts need designing, sets need painting, the visual artists are the ones that are called upon. Image the walls of a household, office, classroom without the visuals – how sterile and unimportant would that space be (think of a prison cell… maybe I have offered up too much information – Just Kidding.)?
J is for Juxtaposition – The side by side comparison of professional artists, the community artists, and the student artists is essential to the community of artists and learners. The professional, weekend warrior, and the student learning what it is to work in and be around art may not always be attained by those in the arts BUT it is essential to the arts. The Artist, the Critic, the Historian, the Consumer… Art does not get made in a vacuum and is essential to all those involved.
K is for Kindred Spirits – The closeness of a group of artists (professionals and students alike) who are making work, discovering skills and abilities, solving problems and coming up with new and inventive solutions, and then showing work together with a sense of pride… this is something desperately needed in our world – here is an opportunity to promote that spirit of unity. Start an art group with your friends and have pizza while talking about the art you make.
L is for Lifelong Learning – What does it take to be an artist? This is a question that many colleges and universities fail to provide a solid answer for. Opportunities abound as one learns what it is to juggle the time, management, resources, artworks, and all the other things that are part of a successful artist (professional and students alike).
M is for Mediums – So often students are afraid of the learn the basics of handling a medium, yet tend to be amazed at what a completed artwork in an unfamiliar (or all too familiar) medium is. Through the use of the visual arts, high quality and resolved ideas, images, experiments, mediums, topics, sizes, colors… you name it… are experienced in a way that allows the risk of failure to be superseded by the potential of new success.
N is for New – New ideas and opportunities that individuals come up with allow for a different approach for problem solving and discoveries of the self that other ways of thinking may not be able to provide.
O is for Opportunities – The arts offer the students so many opportunities to create and work their minds in different ways that other areas of academia do not. Studio spaces, drawing tables, sketchbooks, empty canvases, open minds, supportive communities and families offer that opportunity.
P is for Professionalism – As a high school teacher (and former high school student) it is one thing to move a pushpin display board around the cafeteria and pin artwork to it in hopes that it gets looked at and appreciated (and not touched and smeared up by other students). It is another thing altogether to give the work by our quality students a place to be appreciated in a space that allows the viewer to step back and see the hard fought efforts on display is a safe and protected space. Many people (students, myself as a high school student and even at the college level) are often too intimidated to even venture into an art gallery if they stumbled upon one. While a critique can often be a good destination for artwork, a gallery IS the destination for artwork (MoMA will be calling soon enough) while a pushpin display board is a destination for a mid-critique… maybe.
Q is for Quiet – Reflection is always a wonderful and necessary skill to develop as one thinks about the skills that have been mastered and the skills that need refining. The arts, and a place to properly view the visual arts, allow for that necessary practice of self-reflection and contemplation to occur. As artists work through the process of making art, the sense of reflection (and feedback from those involved and interested in the work) is essential to that process of making art.
R is for Reflection – See above (Quiet). If the above is not convincing enough, try Socrates out for size with”The unexamined life is not worth living.”
S is for Society – Art has defined, redefined, reflected, and changed society since the beginning of humankind. The arts challenge our perceptions and help us see the world in new and creative ways (Sixteen Trend: Their Profound Impact on Pur Future, p 170). From the cave paintings at Lascaux, where the artists painted their ceremony and day to day activities to the Renaissance artists where Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni defined what it was to create perfection and question the status quo. Pablo Picasso and his , the visual representation of the horror, bloodshed, and devastation of the small Basque Country village of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Society of the past would not be known without the arts and the society of today requires the same.
T is for Teamwork – By working together, students, faculty, community members can create exhibitions, build collections, and develop relationships, “conceive of ideas, products, services, performances and pathways to peace and understanding. The arts can help us find common ground (170)”. They can build the skills to really understand what it’s like to work as a team and come up with extraordinary results.
U is for Unity – Artists (and the rest of us who may not be artists – me excluded as I am one… whatever that means) have a need for the a sense of belonging. While the sharing of a personal body of work is one way to create a sense of unity among the artworks, the gathering of artists, whether it be at a local coffee shop, gallery, or museum, (or family room over pizza and beverages once a month – Thanks Ted) is essential in the development of a strong body of work and connection.
V is for Variety – Artists offer so much more than what they tend to get credit for when it comes to the work they produce and the individuals they are. The diversity of works that the artists create is only outdone by the diversity of actual artists themselves that are out int he community. The use of UNITY (see above) is something that helps bring them all together to share their ideas and breakthroughs in the future of the arts.
W is for Wanting – There is something that everybody wants. Whether it be love, community, understanding, attention, conversation, or something else entirely. The visual arts offer these and more tho those who are interested enough in the investigation and risks that are involved. Go ahead… make a mistake, try something new, forge a path ahead that nobody else has had the courage to do as of yet. The visual arts DARE you!
X is for eXtraordinary – The use of eXtraordinary here is because the level of education that the visual arts offer to the community is just that, extraordinary. The images and thoughts that are offered, the levels of skill that are developed, the levels and expectations of visual understanding and thought set in front of the audience (and maker alike) are high. Hopefully just high enough that reaching for them is within the grasp of everyone. The end result is if those challenges are actually reached for and grasped by those that they are put in front of.
Y is for Youth – The kids are the future and we, the mature artists, are there for them. The youth of our community is challenged by what it is to make art, to appreciate art, and to learn from art. Why we, as artists, are all here is to help them know about the importance of the arts in their developmental opportunities toward acquiring the knowledge, skills and experiences to become successful and responsible adults.
Z is for Zackenstil – While this zig-zag style of art (created in the 13th-century) was used in sculpture, painting, stained glass and manuscript illumination (and is reputedly an offshoot of the angularly-draped clothing one sees on human figures in Byzantine art) helps to demonstrate the wide variety of approaches to making art. The arts elevate the ideas of learning and through the academics as well as lifelong learning of our community and world. The arts brings the rest of out existence to a new and higher level.