Art has the Answers

“All art is quite useless”, said Oscar Wilde in the introduction of his famous novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, which was published in 1890. He said this because he believed that the aim of art was, “Simply, to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in anyway.”

Art means something different to each one of us.
• Do you agree with Oscar Wilde?
• Do you share my view, that art and creativity have the power to address some of the world’s biggest
• Or is it something that has never really crossed your mind?

In this blog, I would like to explore what art means to you, explain why I think art is such a powerful tool and talk about just a few of the ways that creativity is achieving amazing things in the UK today.

What does the word art mean to you? When asked this question we all have a different picture in our minds – we all think of art in different ways.

For you, is art…

• a drawing or a painting such as the Mona Lisa, in the Louvre in Paris, by a famous artist such as Leonard da Vinci?

• a dancer, telling a story through their movements on the stage – ballet, contemporary or ballroom?

• or, a favourite book or film?

There are so many art forms, art is not just one thing, it’s hard to define.

Whilst there are many artforms, the common thing that they all share is that they were produced as a result of a creative process. It’s this process of creative thinking that leads artists to create inspiring, exciting and often insightful art.

One of the defining things about creative processes is that they are not linear, as a lot of thought processes are which we use every day.

“What shall I have for tea? Nothing in the fridge… take away it is!” Is an example of just one of the many thousands of linear decisions we each make every day of our busy lives.

So, what is creative thinking? It’s defined as, “thinking about new things or thinking in new ways”. Randomness, openness and curiosity are all key elements of creativity. Creativity has very few rules and, as a result, creative processes can take the thinker anywhere. If you’ve tried brainstorming – congratulations you’re a creative thinker! And as a bonus, creativity also makes you feel good. Artists have a great way of looking at the world and it is this non-linear, rule breaking approach which is why creativity is so powerful. Creativity inspires people to think for themselves. It’s because of this that creative thinking and art have huge potential to address everyday problems which have been approached in a linear way with often fairly limited success.

For those of you who agree with Oscar Wilde, that all art is quite useless can I attempt to persuade you to change your mind by giving you three examples of when art has provided answers to everyday issues:

Both the NHS and the British Medical Association have endorsed the impact that taking part in the arts can have on health and well-being. Researchers for the Royal Society for Public Heath asked people what they did in their spare time. Those who had, during middle age, been busy reading, writing, creating art or engaging in craft hobbies like patchworking or knitting were found to have a 40% reduced risk of memory impairment. The British Medical Journal is so convinced of the benefits of the arts to well-being that it suggested that 1% of the UK health budget should be spent on arts activities – 1% of the total UK health spend in 2017. If such a policy was realised it would provide £14.8 billion into the arts and health sector.

The good news is that across the UK many hospitals are often now built in collaboration with a curator to works with artists; putting art on the walls, creating sculptures in the public spaces and running creative activities such as health choirs, creative activities or dancing which are all enormously beneficial for mental and physical health.

Over the past 10 years, land and property-owning bodies such as the National Trust, Forestry Commission and the Canal & River Trust have commissioned artists and theatre companies to tell their stories. How powerful and memorable is the image of the art installation – “Blood Swept Lands” by artists, Paul Cummins and Tom Piper, as over 850,000 ceramic poppies cascaded from the windows of the Tower of London to mark one hundred years since the first day of Britain’s involvement in the First World War?

The creative industries, the collective name given to the creative business sector in the UK, which includes designers, filmmakers, musicians, amongst others. The sector generates almost £10 million every hour for the UK and is growing at four times the rate of the workforce as a whole.

I am constantly surprised that art and creative thinking aren’t valued more highly and that creative subjects are being devalued and removed as options for our young people in schools.

The examples I have shared above are just three examples of creative solutions to everyday problems of which there are many more.

I hope that this article has helped to persuade you that art really does have the answers – we should be nurturing creativity not ignoring it.

Can I return for a moment to ask you the question – what does art mean to you?

Now take a few seconds to imagine a world without art.

How much less interesting and colourful is it? Can we risk undervaluing creativity?


Manda Graham, 11.03.2018

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