To some people, art appears very impractical. They don't understand its purpose and while they may feel a given work is "interesting" or "pretty," they fail to grasp why it moves people. Regardless of its exact form, however, art serves as vital nourishment to the human spirit, using it to explore our world and the truths that more practical endeavors can sometimes obscure.
Beauty and Inspiration
Beauty in and of itself serves as indelible testament to the importance of art. A beautiful painting or song creates a sense of happiness in the viewer, filling his soul with wonder and contentment. Furthermore, such beauty may inspire the observer to have a more positive effect on the world around him, or to seek out similar scenes in the real world to further enrich his life.
Art acts to illuminate the wondrous variety of human beings , and to look at the world in ways we may not have otherwise considered. A tribal mask from Africa might display the carver's values, which a casual observer never stopped to think about before she saw it. Conversely, a portrait of a beloved historic figure may show him in an ugly or less than flattering light, forcing the viewer to reconsider her preconceived notions. In each case, the art helps the viewer see things from another person's point of view, stressing our common human bonds as well as the ways in which our experiences differ.
Art is fueled by imagination, which allows us to grow and stretch beyond our boundaries. Without new artistic movements and new means of creative expression, society stagnates: trapped in established notions and unable to think in ways which can solve new-found problems. The playfulness of art—the way artists experiment and try new means of expression—are emulated in more practical fields such as architecture, engineering and even medicine.
Artists can act as social revolutionaries, highlighting injustices and inciting the viewer to change the way things are. History's most dynamic artists were often catalysts for controversy, as their work provoked anger and heated debate among those who viewed it. But through that debate, injustices can be corrected, and the artists' willingness to illuminate harsh or uncomfortable truths can result in positive action to change things for the better.
Above all, art seeks to illuminate the human condition—the things we struggle with, the ways life can confound us and the efforts we make to find meaning in our existence. We all have just a handful of years to make an impression in the world, and most of our work fades with the passage of time. But art provides a sense of permanence to existence, not only revealing the truths for which we strive, but allowing those who come after us to study and grapple with those same truths.
- Thomas Northcut/Digital Vision/Getty Images