Art History; Art Future

Why do I so often feel like art is broken? When it comes to how we conceive of arts education, and how we’re taught to practice and recognize art and creativity, I think there’s a whole lot we can do better.

One problem to start with: creativity is still fairly ghettoized in early childhood education — and most all education, for that matter. Kids of all ages thirst for creative guidance, thrive on exploration and imagination; this should permeate the entire stack of learning time and activities, not be tacked on in a twice weekly time-slot.

This may never happen in our current climate, but let’s imagine: in some future world all teachers will have advanced expertise, and make more money than bankers or lawyers. They’ll all be active in some creative field, and skilled at eliciting curiosity in their students, guiding them to explore ideas wildly — not just academic ideas, but creative ones: initiatives to improve their communities, experiences they might design for their friends, mind-blowing experimental meals to cook for their parents.

The biggest problem I see with arts education, art history, and the general public conception of “art” at large, is that it’s regarded as a domain somehow separate from the ecstasy of everyday being and living.

The truth, though, is that most great creative work doesn’t live in museums or galleries, doesn’t come from art schools or artists’ studios. No — it’s put out into the world by regular people who have an itch, who are dissatisfied with how the world currently looks and take it upon themselves to imagine, and then create, something new.

I’ve been to a lot of art galleries, and a lot of art museums, and so much of what fills them — not all, but really, most! — is bullshit. Maybe not at the MET…but your average gallery? Banal, boring, useless, masturbatory, unimaginative. And even the stuff that actually is great and interesting, even that art often feels sterile,  decontextualized from the vitality of real lives and concerns.

As I see it, the future of art is in connecting people, changing how we perceive ordinary experiences, shaping the ways we hold ideas in our minds, and how we form relationships. This future is one of integration, consilience, immersion — bathing everything we think and feel in rich creative plasma.

Art future is not museums and galleries. It’s not even sculpture parks or weird video installations or processor-taxing websites. Rather, it’s a network of creative experiments available for anyone to encounter, explore, and modify. It’s a world where organizations are infused with such creative energy that to separate out business metrics from creative goals would be meaningless.

In this future, kids learn skills and knowledge, sure, but the focus of their learning is synthesis: how to look at the world with wonder, and use this vision to create new and meaningful things. In this world, the highest work of humans is in those areas that can’t be automated — creativity, critical thinking, complex inventions that have the power to reshape of the fabric of reality.

This will entail reshaping our social, political, and economic fabrics too, and these changes may not come easily — but when they do, the world will continue to improve, and we’ll be free to practice creativity in all we do. When that time comes, there will be people who wield these creative powers particularly well. But I don’t know if there will still be those we refer to as “artists”, separate from the rest.

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