What is art and why is it important?

Art is classically one of the hardest things in the world to define. There are boundless ways to understand and relate to what art actually is, which is why there is so much discussion around the topic. When we first think of art, we think of creative expression – a physical representation of an idea that is born out of inspiration. Leo Tolstoy stated that: “Art is the activity by which a person, having experienced an emotion, intentionally transmits it to others.” Some other sentiments include any piece of creativity that a human creates, or a way of expressing oneself.

What art should be?

Art may be said to take the form of music, pop culture, film, or physical art such as painting or sculpture. The idea of what art should be or is at its best has grown and evolved with time; historically, certain institutions have regulated or restricted an appropriate canon of art that was considered ideal or optimal, as is witnessed during the Renaissance period. Today, the tides of creativity have shifted towards a Post-Modern view that emphasizes individual experience, thus creating a world of art that focuses on form or representation without the need for direct metanarrative or even inherent beauty. It may be fair to say that art is the representation of beauty by a particular mode of representation, influenced and infused with one’s particular cultural and societal context.

Why is art important?

Art is important precisely because it is not “necessary”. The human person can technically live and survive without the pursuit of or expression of beauty, but so much of the thrill of life and the nourishment of the human soul comes from this expression of and consumption of true beauty. The practical processes of life exist to provide space and structure for the pursuit of the “unnecessary” things. Art shapes and defines culture and creates structure for societies to celebrate together.