Art Talk | Do We Need Artists in the City?

As an arts researcher and visual artist, I felt compelled to debunk some of the stereotypes and standing myths that were raised by the public about what it means to be an artist.The article We need artists to solve the challenges of this century, published in the Globe and Mail on June 12, 2012 and written by OCAD President Sara Diamond, generated a variety of mixed comments, the majority of which reflected stereotyped perceptions of the artist. Some of which I address here. Continue reading Art Talk | Do We Need Artists in the City?

If I am a Crafter, at What Point do I Become an Artist?

Today “crafts” are most commonly seen as a form of hobby or sometimes art. I have been thinking lately about the difference between arts and crafts. Primarily my question is:  If I am a crafter, at what point do I become an artist?

In general, the term ‘craft’ has been used to refer to the products of artistic creation that require a degree of artistic knowledge and involve manual labour, which are accessible to the general public and are constructed from materials such as ceramics, glass, textiles, metal and wood. These crafts are often produced within a specific community. The Arts and Crafts Movement was a movement which advocated for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, often applying medieval, romantic or folk styles of decoration. As an international design movement it flourished between 1860 and 1910, continuing its influence until the 1930s.

Dewey (2005) asserts that “art denotes a process of doing and making” (p. 48) and art is an experience. As a crafter, the process of doing and making are based on the experiences of the crafter, the same follows for the artists, where arts and crafts are the confluence of personal accounts and experiences. Also, following Dewey’s view of art as a mode of human experience, crafters and artists make body of art works to form new experiences.

As I ponder these definitions, my related questions are:  Isn’t a crafter someone who puts a little of themselves into every piece, infusing it with their experiences and ideas and opinions? Isn’t a crafter someone who simply loves and creates from love? Ultimately both crafters and artists’ motivation comes down to one primary reason:  he or she wants to create and add creativity to this world. Thus crafters are artists. Perhaps, what sets crafters apart from traditional artists is the choice of materials, but more importantly, the public’s point of view of who an artist is.

The Arts Open the Door to Creativity

We live in a time of innovation, creativity and culture. We have artistic innovators, knowledge creators, e-communicators, writers, music makers, etc. The arts open the doors to creativity. It is a fact that many of us thrive on the study of the arts; the arts nourish critical thinking and innovation. The positive effects of the arts are numerous. As more studies are conducted on the relationship between arts education and success in other academic areas, the clearer it becomes that the arts are an important part of a well-rounded education. In particular in schools, learning the arts is not the goal; rather, learning through the arts should be the stated focus. There must be meaningful learning in all subjects in the classroom. As Hanley (2003) put it:

We train rats, program machines, and educate people. We too often forget that the arts are vital components in the education of our children and worry unduly about only training and programming. It is time for a reality check. We neglect the arts in the education of our children to the peril of our collective future (p. 37).

In our holistic world, everything matters. Arts promote unity. The arts give the opportunity of uncovering new understanding of the world. Violence and misunderstandings keep spreading in the world. The arts can be a way to reconsider sensitive issues and values.

Society needs to engender creative thinkers. Smilan and Marzilli (2009) sum up:

Without creative thinkers, society and culture may suffer, leaving a dangerous gap in society between those who lead and are capable of identifying and addressing challenges, and those who blindly follow the status quo (p. 40).

The constant repetition of voices in the literature citing the need for the arts and creative thinking is common sense. Richard Florida repeatedly states: “Every Single Human Being is Creative!”

What it comes down to is to be able to provide an outlet for creative expression, transforming ideologies and methodologies. Creativity thru the arts matter to all, and we all know this. If we truly believe that every person has the right to unleash their full potential, then skills in the arts should be considered as important as math and language skills. Why are we neglecting it when arts were the first signature of human kind?

Hanley, B. (2003). Policy issues in arts assessment in Canada: “Let’s Get Real.” Arts Education Policy Review, 105(1), 33-38.
Smilan, C., & Marzilli, M. (2009). Art Teachers as leaders of authentic art integration. The Journal of the National Arts Education Association, 62(6), 39-45.