What good is Art?     

Pour le texte en français - "Ca sert à quoi, l'art?"

©Anaïs Laurent, Galerie Quint-Essences, Bevaix Train Station, 2022 - Bevaix, Switzerland -  November 25, 2005

  What good is Art

©Anaïs Laurent, Galerie Quint-Essences, Bevaix Train Station, 2022 - Bevaix, Switzerland -  November 25, 2005

Nowadays, when art is discussed the first question is "What good is it - is it useful? How much does it bring into the State coffers?" Sad but true. We live in a materialistic world where useful can be sold, otherwise we sell advertising chimera! Art is seen as a luxury dream, rarely an impulse purchase, and most can not imagine where it fits into the local economy.  Despite this it provides so many other things of value. Let's take a moment to explore how the art market positively influences our lives and can be a factor in renovation and bringing new life and creativity to entire regions.

When we go out for a weekend stroll we are looking for something to distract us from the hum drum world of work, something that is beautiful, that catches our eye, that makes us dream... it is at this particular moment that we can say Art is useful because it allows us to step off the treadmill of an ever-more-rapid world in which we are saturated by sound, bombarded by noisy colors and rapid images stuffed with underlying, unconscious images or words intended to make us salivate, purchase the object in the background, etc.  Worse still, our nostrils are assaulted by odors that smell of rancid French-fry oil, too much perfume or quite simply, debris.  Constant and insistent demands on our minds and emotions impact our physical health as well...  Art alleviates these demands by giving us a breath of "elsewhere" that is oftentimes esthetically pleasing or requires a reevaluation of our vision of the world – a first step toward thinking outside the box.

Art also allows us to forget for a moment the job that has become a cancer and has invaded our lives not only during the day, but also at home, during the evenings and long into the night... after all, we are professionals, are we not?  We promised the job would be done by tomorrow morning despite the fact that there weren't enough hours in the work day to complete it, so we take it home... just once, a once that becomes a habit and the stress invades our minds, bodies and spirits and burnout is close at hand. 

Work become an addiction that eats us up from the inside out, from the guilt of not having completed a project on time, from the fact that it is not as well done as we should like for lack of time, because our nights are peppered with dreams that revolve around the problems that didn't get resolved at the office and wake us up at least once or twice during a particularly vivid dream of a furious boss...  And you say, what has art got to do with it?  Art is your safety valve.  The dream on the wall you can contemplate and escape to or find a new solution from.  Art, if you go the extra step and practice it, allows you a physical and emotional outlet in a mental world, allows you to remain more balanced and healthy in a world that has become particularly pragmatic and has to a great degree lost the ability to dream.

Art also improves our daily lives, creating an environment that speaks to us of the finer and more sensitive things in life.  It reassures us, surrounds us with beauty in the midst of ugliness, its forms and colors touch us deeply.   On a more practical level, a painting in a conference room creates an atmosphere full of creativity where the team can more easily brainstorm and come up with new ideas.  For others, it may mean a way for us to express our taste, or on a more "realistic" level, it may mean an investment in a sure value that one can hand down to one's descendants... when you think about it, Art serves in many domains and at many levels.   

In certain cases, the discovery of art as a means to bring a dying town back to life is a very real possibility.  Old mills or huge, hollow department stores can become museums dedicated to specific aspects of life such as railroad history, the paper-making industry, the history of a certain type of cloth with artwork on it that made the fortunes of many families in Romandie, for example. Many dilapidated buildings have been renovated to house modern art collections, and the secondary income from by-products sold in the museum stores, meals in local restaurants, parking meter income, etc. all go to revitalizing a neighborhood.

There are those whose joy is spending time checking out the little galleries or visiting specific artists in their private studios, that magic place where they create works that both enchant us and trouble us, for all art is not made to be sold as a decoration for the living room wall... It sometimes expresses a gut-rock feeling that the artist can't get rid of until he has given birth to it on a linen canvas, played in clay up to his elbows until it fits the form in his head, chips away at stone until it emerges in a sculpture, creates a collage that includes all the aspects of the question or challenge to be resolved... The reasons for his choice of medium are as complex as the final product and the result is interpreted differently by each individual who views it.  Marvelous, is it not?  What other object can aspire to such flexibility and simultaneously establish a form of complicity and communion between the artist and the observer of his work?

Many artists, and many more neophytes than will verbally express the need, are drawn to art as a means of therapy, a means to express their political views, their despair at man’s laxity in taking care of his world, as a testimony against the brutal nature of man or the waste he generates that deregulates the weather, etc.  Where words no longer serve, the picture replaces the thousand words and in the discovery of new means of communication comes a cleansing of the soul and the heart that makes room for better thoughts, warmer and more compassionate ideas to be expressed.

As an artist, trainer and coach I would suggest another use of art as a serious tool to dig deeply into the unconscious on a personal level.  Art therapy can be a practical tool toward uncovering the issue(s) that plague us or that we wish to understand on a deeper level. 

One example might be a team analysis with a coach/trainer.  "Drawing Your Dragons" is a series of art workshops I created.  It is centered on our need to uncover, better understand and eventually diminish or even rid ourselves of recurring problems that despite all our efforts come back time and again to haunt us as long as the deep reason for their existence has not been understood and dealt with.   Defining and “naming” the problem is a form of accepting its existence and making it concrete in the creation of the dragon we produce.  It may be a reminder of something we need to adjust in our lifestyles or work methods.  Once we give it a relative value and a priority in the list of things to be dealt with, we can decide on when and how to do so during our personal, interior search for a more centered person - a person in whom there is agreement and balance between the body, mind and soul, creating the harmony we are all instinctively searching. 

Simultaneous with the discovery of the problem through art is the equally important task of  discovering our trump cards and talents, our positive aspects, accepting their existence so we can make full use of them to find possible solutions or different means of changing our paradigms so we think and act differently - we can do this alone, with a coach (considered neutral and not judgmental) or in a group, a team we learn to trust as we take these elements together and look at them from all angles, your teammates offering ways in which they dealt with the same or similar difficulties.  This enlarges our scope of possibilities without having the feeling of guilt or nakedness and shame since others have experienced the same phenomena.   Total trust is difficult to come by, but it is more attainable when deep issues are shared, especially on an artistic, non-verbal level first - the teamwork and team spirit so highly considered in the business world can be found in an artistic workshop such as this rather than in commonplace management workshops, and the results are longer lasting, more stimulating and more revealing of new options to find and correct the fault lines in communication, etc. because the work done touches us on a personal level and we assume responsibility for and possession of the results.

Art is therefore, not only beauty, taste, personal development and a motor for creativity but also a tool to better understand deep-seated needs and maintain our mental, emotional and physical equilibrium...

Yes, you can ask me "What good is art?" and I have lots of answers, only a few of which I have enumerated above.  A couple of others might be more practical:  revenue increase to third parties such as wholesalers and retailers of art products (paint, brushes, pens, sculpture tools, etc.), restaurant owners and train stations near galleries or studios that sell the works of art, places rented out for special artistic functions, openings, activities such as courses, special museum sales or auctions such as Christie's and Southeby's, a unique setting in which to hold events that are meant to inspire and of which we retain not only excellent memories but a shove toward a more creative thought process, etc. 

There are, of course, the intangible benefits, which in turn provide different lucrative benefits, such as the world renown and draw of certain towns blessed by famous architects who took the risk of incorporating art in the architecture of the  buildings they built, for example the extraordinary homes and buildings in Art Nouveau in the town of Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, or the extremely modern homes that incorporate Art Deco or even more original styles that have come to be known by the name of their designer, such as Le Corbusier, or museums such as the Centre Dürrenmatt in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, the cathedral in Evry, France and the Museum of Modern Art in California by Mario Botta, etc.  These buildings have become a part of the national artistic heritage and are protected as such.  They are also a regular tourist draw for people from around the world who spend money in area hotels and restaurants while there to visit the sites.  This in turn brings in additional money to the state coffers...

So once again, if you were to ask me what purpose does Art serve?  I would like to add to the above the fact that it makes your life more agreeable and harmonious, gives it a touch of beauty and light to let you dream, rounds off the aggressive corners and brings a missing element in a world that is rapidly becoming totally materialistic and money-oriented.  Do you have other thoughts?  Wonderful, spend an afternoon over tea discussing the positive benefits of Art in our lives, from architecture to packaging, from beauty on the wall to creativity in the boardroom...  Visit an artist and see where your discussions lead.  Personally, I invite your to visit the intimate little Galerie Quint-Essences I have founded from 12:30PM to 5:30PM Tuesday-Saturday.  Art-Thé is served around 3PM on Saturdays.  Do telephone to see who’ll be there – one of our artists or myself.  Our mobile phone is:  079 255.03.08