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What is art? And why should we care what it is?

An old debate with new relevance. At a time when the value of an idea is paramount, creative programs are being marginalized or eliminated in our education system. Is this a paradox or a symptom of our disassociation from independent thinking because we have reached the saturation point of knowledge?

If our base level of knowledge has out stripped our ability to assimilate it, does creative thinking decrease in the general population (like a glass that has been filled to the brim)?

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    Jan 24 2014: The problem with art is that it's being taught to us only under the image and form of masterpieces. Our educational system shows us what the greats have done such as Beethoven in music, Da vinci in painting, and Marlon brando in acting, etc...and values and assesses our artistic side compared to them... Art cannot be taught or compared, it's a constant evolution and the honest expression of the soul and the mind, unfortunately, our schools have failed to understand this, thus they killed creativity.
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      Jan 25 2014: Super point!
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      Jan 26 2014: Don't we need more than just expression for something to be called art? The intent is surely important, but the delivery of the soul makes it presentable to the audience. Can an emotional singer, but tone-death to be called a musician? (Unfortunately, I think there are many of them today in the mainstream media and being quite successful ).

      School does not teach art, it teaches the delivery of it. How to present the expression as an artiest, and how to understand it as an audience. A great story needs words to help it spread, that's why we teach grammar, vocabulary and literary devices at school.
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        Jan 26 2014: I really like what you said that schools does not teach art, they teach the delivery of it. You are absolutely right, however, don't you think that following this way of teaching might have a negative effect, resulting in having an homogenous generation of students, where the majority are doing everything the same way?

        From a personal experience: I would like to add that I'm a guitar player, I used to pick up my guitar and try to compose little pieces of music, if it sounds good to me I play it if not I drop it, whats fascinating is that I created some really nice songs! back then I didn't know any music theory, what I was composing really came from the heart, but since I decided to learn some theory, my creativity dropped, I now use defined scales to make music such as the pentatonic scale, the music still sounds good, but its music that everyone can do, unlike the personal music I first composed.
        • Feb 6 2014: I completely agree. If what schools teach in art is 'good' and the only 'good' art, does that mean that all our future artist will be oil pastels and watercolor paints?
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      Jan 26 2014: Your observation is interesting to me for a couple of reasons. You seem to be arguing that formal instruction in technique is emphasized in the schools with which you are familiar and that that stifles creativity. Others typically argue that encouraging creativity across the curriculum but not pursuing formal instruction in artistic technique stifles creativity.
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        Jan 26 2014: Yes, and that poses a problem, both theories are true in a way, yet they are contradictory. Do you think that some balance can be created between them, leading toward a better artistic education?
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          Jan 26 2014: In visual arts, I believe almost all artists who have done path breaking work have started by learning the techniques of the masters but then departed from those techniques to be in dialogue with them. There is, of course, creative "outsider" work as well, though it is difficult to know whether that work would still have arisen if these artists had been exposed to more ideas originally.

          I know many people believe that exposure to a wide array of ideas and techniques in any field is stifling, but I think that research on creativity and interviews with highly creativity people mostly dispels that assumption.

          It is fruitful in any case not to dissuade people of any age from pursuing their artistic directions just because they have no training. Why shouldn't anyone experiment as they choose with materials? In fact, kids in schools with which I am familiar typically have frequent opportunities to work experimentally with an array of materials. This was true even in my youth.

          Creative endeavors are not only about contributing to the discipline with which they are associated or doing great work but also about improving an individual's quality of life. Hobby art, hobby science, and hobby research of all kinds can improve the quality of life for those who pursue them. For this reason, an increasing number of people do pursue them.

          People should probably not use power tools or toxic materials without some guidance as to their use.
      • Jan 27 2014: If formal education in "art" stifles creativity, why isn't formal education in composition, basic grammar, or fundamentals of spelling denounced for the same reason? Is not writing "art"?
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          Jan 27 2014: One hears the same claim for creative writing. I believe it to be a dubious claim in any subject.
    • Jan 30 2014:

      Although he says it is standardized testing, not art instruction that kills creativity. In fact, in order to inspire more creativity Sir Ken Robinson recommends more arts, not less.

    • Feb 20 2014: I think it creates a kind of psychological pressure to follow in the same footsteps or to match up to that level. i totally agree with you Joseph.
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      Feb 2 2014: The comment to which this replied has been deleted leaving this for now as it does relate to other elements n this thread especially those pertaining to the "message" within art.

      This is very interesting and onto something. My friend Jane McCloskey ( daughter of Robert McCloskey..make way for ducklings etc.) started out exploring what informed her fathers private work, never seen by any of us,(still )t lead her into an exploration of sacred geometry in art that she has had an enduring attraction to. I hope her book on this will be published, its been fascinating to see that in finding the sacred geometry in the art she also finds keys to the meaning , the message in it that has engaged her with the work over time She seems to find the keys that unlock messages that speak to all of us for all time.

      Sacred geometry of course is the heart of all mathematics and all of creation. So there is, Jane has discovered, a connection between art and nature and the very structure of the universe through scared geometry.

      Also recently I found a quoe that said a longing for beauty is a longing for connection with the universe.
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        Feb 3 2014: Yes, Lindsay, I agree. Maths are the soul of creation, of Universe. And I agree with your friend's concept about art. I have a friend who is a dentist, and he, when designs a prosthesis,- tooth-, he ends his work adding, to the measures of the gap to be covered in patient's jaw, the Art of the mathematical rule of the 'golden ratio' to finish this tooth's design. Besides, in his clinic you always listen to Beethoven or Mozart. Nice, isn't?
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    Jan 26 2014: Art is the human expression based entirely on feelings. It is also a communication defying logical cogency.
    Of course we should care what is art or else we will start to mistake logic for thought itself.
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      Jan 25 2014: Endless subject..
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          Jan 25 2014: You're a sweet soul, Lili. And your wisdom is appreciated in my heart.
    • Jan 30 2014: It is not as if our choice at this moment is comment on art or feed the hungry... the two are not mutually exclusive. If any subject could be free of the politicized accusation of frivolity in the face of human need I would think it is this one.
      In my opinion the best answer to poverty is not the devaluation of art, it is the emancipation of women, but that is another topic.

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        • Feb 5 2014: lilly lily:
          Art is food for soul.
          If all we care about is just to exist then we are no good than other animals.
          Talking about poverty it is artificial ,we created boundaries, divided the world so that half of the world would be left to suffer while privileged one's enjoy.
          And the role of art is to express this contradictions in life which we fail to see.
          Have a good day..
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        • Feb 7 2014: lilly lily:
          Isn't it a hypothetical world you are talking about ,if survival of the fittest is the rule of the game then weak have to suffer.
          Looking back at the history of art, the best pieces of art was produced in utter despair and agony .May be art is an alchemy of turning this pain into something beautiful.
          So you don't necessarily have to separate poverty and art.The art may be best described as a process of crystallizing your pain .
          The art chooses the artist, artist is choice less.
          Take care...
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          Gord G

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          Feb 15 2014: Lilly x 2. Art isn't a privileged activity of the well fed aristocracy. I think that's a distorted view propagated in the affluent West and sustained by a disconnection with the root of expression.

          Art is accessible and practiced by anyone who imagines the possibilities beyond the limitations of their circumstances. It resonates with the poor, the exploited, and the marginalized.

          It is the one activity that allows a human being to feel alive… regardless of their influence or physical hardship. It embodies the nature of our being and trumpets the tenacity of our existence.

          Look past bourgeoisie objects of status and appreciate the value of an oppressed individuals display of the quality of their being. There is endless examples of oppressed and ravished groups that have taken refuge in the simple act of expression,

          Artistic expression is an integral part of cultural life.
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          Gord G

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          Feb 15 2014: lilly lilly:

          I didn't miss your point. I just don't agree with it.

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    Jan 24 2014: Earlier this month they had a TED talk on how a guy learn to love useless art, it made me laugh because just like a typical art snob what made it useless was that is also had function. So we will all never agree what is art and that it is truly in the eye of the beholder.
    Some think blending mediums or if more than one person work on it then it is no longer art, I think video games are art. The blending of graphics, storytelling, and making it interactive only enhances the viewer’s experience.

    Back in my school days I was into creating art, and feared taking art history for it would influence me and take my originality. But instead it added to my creativity, hmm that painting was done on brass interesting, maybe I could try painting on glass, stone, ceramics or or or ? To me knowledge increases creativity.
  • Feb 19 2014: Art is emotion made solid. If you can turn your joy into beauty; your love into an outpouring of your soul; your mortality into something that will live forever; your fear into something comforting; your anger into a stand against outrage - Then, you are an artist regardless of what materials you use and regardless of what technical skill you may or may not possess.
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    Feb 4 2014: Art brings attention to functionality be it aesthetic or figurative. It brings to view how much science exist around us. Art like beauty is in the eye of the beholder making it a great subject for debate. What are the standards, what is the criteria for what art should be or shouldn't?

    Art is context based, never always means what it presents, sometimes direct other times abstract, it could be worth a million words or interpretations. Art is living , our every day activities make up myriad of artistic expressions which in itself is art ( walking , talking, cooking, culinary gestures, dancing etc ).

    The world as we see it and experience is a work of art. Art makes science beautiful , art gives science form , art makes tomorrow exciting .
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    Feb 4 2014: Art is natural, art is in nature. Art is form and beauty, art could seem formless, art is a mystery.
    Art is about imagination, it is deeper than human thought could express; but it has to be expressed in order to fufill its purpose.

    Purpose? To make money? To reveal talent? To communicate a feeling? Even purpose could be a vast field.

    As long as humanity is on God's earth, art is in the heart; and it would always speak.
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    Feb 3 2014: Art causes the brain to step away from conventional thought and develop areas of the brain not regularly tapped into during day to day scenarios. Developing different areas of the brain allows the artist to think from different angles about the same topic/issue.

    When others observe art they are using empathetic skills to interpret the meaning and the thoughts processes involved to make the art. Feelings can be pulled off canvas and felt by the viewer in a way completely intended by the artist or in a way the artist never even imagined possible.

    Art is meant to be felt and people need a way to expand their emotional intelligence especially since we are losing it. Emotional intelligence is a huge and far too often overlooked part of development.

    Art is feeling and artists care about feeling and making others feel.
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    Feb 2 2014: New knowledge owes its existence to art and creativity. What can be imagined is the precursor of what will eventually be enshrined in knowledge.

    I don't think there will ever be a saturation point of knowledge. It would only ever seem that way because of the apparent devaluing of the imagination that feeds it, from education upwards. I think that's happening right now, and will only lead to a stagnation of knowledge, rooted in the past.

    I say this because of my observations of what seems to be of value, and what gets rewarded. We reward The Enlightenment values of logic, knowledge, memory and mechanism. All else gets dubbed as "romanticism", "superstition", "pseudoscience", "fairy stories", "mythology", "metaphysics"... These cheap, conversation-stopping terms only serve to disable a vital thought process that could substantially hasten our quest for knowledge, if only given free-rein. Such thought processes begin in art.
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      Feb 2 2014: Do you truly believe that creativity and imagination, discovery and innovation are not widely valued, sought, often regarded with awe, and rewarded?
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        Feb 3 2014: The end results - the point at which knowledge is established - are rewarded, though I truly believe that the creative processes leading up to that end result, are very much devalued. And the further away from science it gets, the lesser the value.

        Reductive research programmes are regarded in our secular culture as sacrosanct, on the grounds that anything else would not be science. Reductionist science gets rewarded, even though it deals primarily with the parts rather than the whole.

        My view is that the whole needs to be understood first before analysing the parts. The arts are good at revealing 'the whole' to us by stimulating imagination, yet appears to be marginalised and unrewarded - increasingly so in our education systems.
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          Feb 3 2014: That's interesting, as my observation has been that creative thinkers across fields and those who break through normal ways of doing things are both sought after in the professional workplace and quite often held in awe by the general public.

          I am not well informed about the atmosphere in schools in the UK where you are. Arts specifically are a big, visible part of education in the States, with drama productions and music ensembles being very central in the life of the school, whether public or private. But also outside of the arts per se, creative work is highly valued, encouraged, and acknowledged both at school and as a factor in college admissions.
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        Feb 3 2014: I think that must be where the US and the UK differ Fritzie.

        The arts seem to be the poor relation to the sciences in terms of vocational eligibility and as acceptable ways of thinking generally. The mantra from successive UK government education agendas is "Reading, Writing and Arithmetic" (no mention of art), all wrapped up in a "top down" style of governance where teachers are very much undervalued and even demonised - especially by our current Education Secretary.

        I guess if the education system was run "bottom up" with teachers having a lot more say in what is taught, and to whom, the arts might then have remained safe within the curricula. I'd value your thoughts on that.

        Education sounds a lot more enlightened in the States from how you describe it.
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          Feb 4 2014: The quality of education varies across the country, as curriculum and funding are both decentralized. Literacy is, of course, an objective everywhere, but problem-solving is as well.

          In terms of career, only certain artistic avenues tend to connect to "jobs" in the United States as elsewhere. But creativity, flexibility, and the skills to draw ones own conclusions rather than believing what one happens to be told are understood to be dispositions that need to be cultivated to prepare young people for a future full of change.
  • Jan 31 2014: Art is the dream state made real.

    Art is spiritual desire unchained from the tedium of cold reality.

    Art is joy and happiness and sorrow and longing.

    Art is all those things your mother warned you about.

    Art is life.
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    Jan 31 2014: What is art?
    Awakening reflections of a transient encounter in which everything interacting with our senses and mind is as unique to the common chamber of life as it is to the meaning. The mind like a sponge is absorbing content between its first and last breath, hence, to me the memory chamber of the human condition is the real art in art, since, storage capacity is a lifespan.

    Is the intrinsic value of art produced, in the beholder of a product (ion) or, in the creator of a product (ion)?
    I would say art produced is a form of amplified communication between an originator and the sentient capacity to resonate with a medium of art, given all communication is free, the intrinsic value of art is an important part of freedom.
  • Jan 31 2014: Wow do we really need to debate this? ART is in everything, everywhere in our lives. You can see art in your children, are they not beautifully and wonderfully made? ART is everywhere you look, the trees the sunset. The world around us is made up of people who are different colors, and I think that is beauty to see our differences and how we are alike. The places we live have ART everywhere in buildings and landscapes. Life is ART , we can draw and paint a portrait of our lives everyday we live.
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    Jan 28 2014: Allow me to quote a poet:


    1. It is not what she did at 10 o'clock last evening that accounts for the smile,
    It is that she plans to do it again ...tonight.

    2. Only the mouth all those years ...ever letting on.

    3. It's not the mouth exactly, it's not the eyes exactly either, it's not even exactly a smile
    But, whatever, I second the motion.

    So many writers ... artists ... art critics ... and lay people have tried to explain the Mona Lisa. Mr. Stone's short poem captures it best, in my opinion.

    That's ART! And we should care about art. It's the language of the soul.
    • Jan 30 2014: What I find funny is that the Mona Lisa of today is so dissimilar to the original painting. It seems new studies reveal the incredible differences in it's appearance as it has aged. So does that mean it is not a work of genius at all? Was the original anywhere near as good, and how could we know?Do we just cal it a masterpiece because all of the preceding generations have?

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        Jan 30 2014: Hello Ian,

        Thank you for your response and question. Do we just call an art work, like the Mona Lisa, a masterpiece because all of the prededing generations have called it so? Not necessarily.

        As we experience life ... and art, we change, we evolve. We change at how we look at or interpret things, including art. As we mature, as we experience life, and as we get more education, we become more confident in our own judgement.

        At a certain point, we will have your own list of favorite poems, novels, songs, movies, plays, paintings, and so on. We will build a library and gallery of our mind. Our favorite art works are our own unique collections. They inspire us, they move us, and in many ways, define us.

        When I was in my early twenties, a wise person recommended that I spend as much time and effort as possible in visiting museums and galleries, attending concerts and plays, reading literary works, and having a hobbly that involves creativity. I'm glad I followed his advice.

        The Arts enrich our lives and, in many ways, make us unique from the rest of the living creatures on Earth.
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    Jan 26 2014: Art is anything I think, say or do that serves the wellbeing and eases the betterment of lives.
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    Jan 26 2014: For me... art is my life. It was always an intergral part of my childhood and then lost as I became a stockbroker. But after becoming disabled, ART is what saved me...
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    Jan 25 2014: One of my favorite articles/discussions on art is from a couple years ago: I'm Sick Of Pretending: I Don't "Get" Art


    From that discussion: "One of the things I discovered as a screenwriter is that it's far more useful to watch a bad movie and figure out how you would make it good than to watch a good movie and figure out what was bad about it. More importantly, if there's a movie or genre or director that everybody else loves that you hate, don't sit there going "I'm so original" figure out what the audience is getting out of it that you aren't."

    I love this. This is what art is all about. Enjoyment. Taking something away from it. Seeing the world a little differently, from a slightly different perspective. Learning and enjoying and interacting and thinking.
  • Jan 24 2014: Unfortunately, our current society in the west is consumed (no pun intended) by capitalism as the be all and end all of modern civilisation. Even the well known socialist countries of Europe are gradually succumbing to this disease. Why is it happening? Why is there such a great disparity between the rich and poor which continues to grow thereby giving rise to the appearance of a modern day feudal system. This is a by product of the ability of corporations to avoid major tax contributions in their country of origin and continue to make enormous profits and give nothing back to the society which allowed them to thrive. This means something like 45% of the tax income of western countries is missing, this means billions of Euros, end result: medical care no longer free, education no longer free etc. The major governments cannot do much about and in fact are reluctant to. And so a concentration of effort in technology and thus no money for much else including art. Art and the humanities are degraded, their value diminished.
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      Jan 26 2014: You confuse capitalism with crony capitalism. All you need to do is read the Declaration Of Independence. This will clarify what capitalism was supposed to be. Todays sense of it is a complete abomination due to the ability to legislate prosperity to the few who can pay for it.
    • Jan 30 2014: This however, does not seem to be the forum for that debate. Remember... Art?

  • Feb 20 2014: To me, Art is a form of self expression and not be be bounded by any restriction. One could scribble, write and draw with anything that could be used for such purpose.
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    Feb 18 2014: Art is a way to communicate in which we don't have to have an education to understand its point of view. Its a tool to create new ways towards free speech. Its the fragile minds network in the often cold and cruel world we live in.
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    Feb 18 2014: Art is more than one thing, art is freedom, art is beauty, art is the past and the future and everything in between. Art could be found in anything as long as you look at it right.
    Art has shaped the world to be how it is today, and without it we surly would not be as civilized as we currently are. Yes there is the pretty art but that's not the only kind of art. Did you know that language started as an art. Without are there would be no letters, and communication has been proven to be an essential part of life. without art we wouldn't be as free as we are. The Renaissance was a period of time when a lot of artists put their thoughts onto their canvas, and shared it with the world. Art is something that relieves stress, Without it the world would be depressed, and boring. Also without art there would not be architecture so we would be sleeping in the weather and in fear of being captured by a predator every night. Another thing that art helps is engineering so it has shaped technology as well.
    Without art there would be no culture, no language, no technology, and no freedom. aren't you glad we live in a world with art?
  • Feb 15 2014: Art to me is absolutely anything a person can come up with that may contribute to society or ones character. I am a big fan of tattoos, I think that this is art at its best. Drawing pictures and symbols and certain characters that express ones personality or journey is really liberating to me. Art can be anything from painting a canvas to an assimilation of rocks. Art is all around us, and each and every form should be taken seriously because it is an expression of time or ones self.
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    Gord G

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    Feb 15 2014: I'm impressed with the diversity of thought.

    I debated using the word "art" because there's a multitude of ingrained biases that stretch back beyond recorded history. Art means many things to many people… from an elaborate fourteenth century fresco to a quick scribble posted on a Twitter account…. or a complex concerto to a simple heartfelt ditty.

    I think core expression is creativity. The act of creating. The drive to find better solutions. The undeniable need to find a better way to live in the world.

    I feel we search the nature of human response to connect with something beyond ourselves and then reflect it back in hopes that we are not alone. It's an odd paradox.

    Creative yearning is the essence of our being. The unrelenting sense that we can master our environment… our emotional well being… our destiny.

    I suppose what I was asking is…

    How can we deny the one inclination that has fostered a world of innovation. Creative thought needs to be nurtured with the same serious intend as rationalism.
  • Feb 5 2014: Art is a word.
  • Feb 3 2014: A definition of art, like art itself, is in the eye of the beholder. As for myself, art is the tangible evidence of imagination, a processing of experience originating in a place where something can come from nothing giving a fleeting glimpse to the potential of the infinite. At its inspirational best, art is the light that gives me hope of a renaissance following the dark ages of world wars. At its violent worse, art leads me down the dark tunnel of death seeking the light at the end.
  • Feb 3 2014: it's simply, to learn and and to express one's feeling !!
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    Feb 3 2014: Yes, Lindsay, I agree. Maths are the soul of creation, of Universe. And I agree with your friend's concept about art. I have a friend who is a dentist, and he, when designs a prosthesis,- tooth-, he ends his work adding, to the measures of the gap to be covered in patient's jaw, the Art of the mathematical rule of the 'golden ratio' to finish this tooth's design. Besides, in his clinic you always listen to Beethoven or Mozart. Nice, isn't?
    • Feb 12 2014: Math is a language, nothing more, nothing less. It is not some kind of mumbo-jumbo hocus-pocus thing. It is a language. It describes things, some of which are physical.
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        Feb 12 2014: Yes, Bryan, you're right. But don't you think that right or beautiful or even simply adequate use of a language may be an art? I think yes. One can use a language as a tool, or use it as a wonderful instrument to create beautiful and harmony. That's my humble opinion.
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    Feb 2 2014: Art is a thought or feeling made real in order to communicate something.
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    Feb 2 2014: Art gives us insights into a world beyond our conscious knowing's like a portal that unlocks something within us, puts it into operation ..both to make it and to have it is literally essential to our being if we aspire to lives that matter to earth and to humanity.

    making it and seeing it is about our co-existence here as sentient beings.

    without art we are not humanity.

    without art we would be missing part of what we need to attain the fullness of our humanity.
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      Feb 15 2014: Lindsay, your thread in this conversation struck a happy nerve in me. I think we should be separating art from artists much in the same way we can separate empathy from psychologists or math from mathematicians. Art is a product of our imagination, something everyone has and few use. It is the use of imagination, expressed in a spectrum of sensory formats, that does enable co-existence and fullness of humanity. Actually, that's what makes JR's work so powerful.
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        Feb 15 2014: Hello Michael, Nice to meet you and thank you for this "resonance". (Who is JR????)

        You make an important distinction ( math is not just a product of mathematicians, etc.).

        Love the abundant fruitfulness of your phrase:

        " It is the use of imagination, expressed in a spectrum of sensory formats, that does enable co-existence and fullness of humanity"

        So going back to the premise of our hosts original question when we consider art as expendable part of a pre-school or school curriculum we are essentially considering eliminating an essential part of child development that enhances connection to humanity.

        I briefly had a head start music program with children here on my island that are the poorest of the poor. It was astonishing to watch the empowerment of spirit that came as each child made a very personal and deep connection with making music and listening to music.. I used an open exploratory approach ( how can we make a higher note, what makes that happen, how does this note feel alone, how does it feel when we all sing it together etc.) They discovered on their own principles of harmony ( 3rd 5ths 7th) and concepts like long makes deep sounds short makes high sounds. It was so clear that the connection to music is inherent and fundamental to our being as sentient beings and as human beings. Same with art I suspect.
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          Feb 16 2014: Over the last several years there has been an institutional drive toward math and science trumping arts in our primary and secondary schools. This is out of fear that we are being trumped by China and India in our potential for job capability. As a result, Art in education has become a premium. People need to pay extra money for private schools just to ensure that their kids have more exposure to art. In my opinion, I think what is essentily missing is exposure to imagination. We're not teaching as many open-ended questions that you suggested in your last comment. We're missing "how might we" in the conversation
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          Feb 16 2014: I agree that for many children it is their involvement in school music programs that ties them in to every aspect of what makes school work effectively for a student. In cities in my state with its only very average schools, we have fantastic music offerings in public schools, with large bands and orchestras, jazz bands, free music lessons provided on site, and free or heavily subsidized outside of school jazz instruction and camps.

          Being part of these music groups gives our public school students a sense of positive connection to school, which sets the tune for life there.
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        Feb 16 2014: Michael, That was the life work of my beloved friend Seymour Papert, Co-Founder of the MIT Media Lab ( who by the way was a brilliant young mathematician when Piaget convinced Seymour to work with him). Seymour's faith in and respect for the inherent intelligence of children and the guided self discovery of unique gifts and potential is what every child needs .Unfortunately our system of "education" is too locked in to standards and comparative measures and uniformity to allow children this essential start in life and in community.
  • Feb 2 2014: Art is an incredibly powerful language--a language that is often not understood, much like that of chronic illness. However, projects like Bohemiare, that strive to build a social platform--a Rosetta Stone, if you will--may be the key to unlocking a new awareness for us all.
  • Jan 30 2014: In a bright sky above a mountain range
    One opal cloudlet in an oval form
    Reflects the rainbow of a thunderstorm
    Which in a distant valley has been staged--
    For we are most artistically caged.

    Vladimir Nabokov

    What do you think " artistically caged " means ?

    Thank you !
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      Feb 2 2014: As an artist myself, I interpret "artistically caged" to represent the art is defined and the constraints of how examples are viewed by society and the status quo. I also think that the standards happen to change with time. Whats considered art today, most likely would not have been excepted as "traditional" In Van Gogh's time he made dozens of pieces and only sold one painting. People hated his original style and now he is viewed as one of the greats. Show someone from the Renaissance period (or any other far away time in the past) an example of abstract art like cubism or even pop art and gauge their reaction. It would be drastically different than now. The same goes for other aspects of art. Compare a classical opera to a Broadway production. Or Shakespeare to Robert Frost. As the times change so does the definition of art, therefore are all "artistically caged".
      • Feb 2 2014: Thanks for responding, Chaney ! Very much appreciated !
        What you say sounds true and well accepted . Someone aptly said that only death could help a true artist to survive :)
        But i think 'artictically caged' can be interpreted differently. Could you please tell me what do you think about " The human condition ' Rene Magritte

        in the context of Nabokov's insight ? I mean, what was his message ?

        Thank you !
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          Feb 2 2014: In the context of Nabokov's message, my analysis of the painting is almost similar to my previous remark. Magritte went about it in an abstract form. The painting depicts the seamless transition from the view inside the room to the view out. What I gather from both is that there is a common theme. Viewpoint from where you are, what you see, and what you do. We can assume that "The human condition" as with many pieces tells a story. That story being someone painting a painting of what they saw from inside the room. The detail in which it is painted represents to me longing or desire. They couldn't get to the ocean but nevertheless wanted it. Not only that but what is says about "the human condition" is that humans are covetous in nature. The imaginary person wanted the ocean (to be nearer to), but because they are in the room they can not obtain it, as a substitute an exact representation was made for that person so that they may be the one to have it. In relation to Nabokov's message I can gather that he is talking about desire and being kept from what is desired. I say this also as in reference to some of Nabokov's other work (namely Lolita) and assume that their is a recurring theme of desire and mankind's covetous nature or condition there also.

          I hope this response is sufficient to your question, and thank you also for replying.
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          Feb 2 2014: I love this conversation you are having and hope you'll forgive the intrusion. Your question and the reply below assume/presume the "message" belongs to the artist, was consciously conceived and consciously "encrpypted" in the work.

          I have had a long tem interest in "what informs art" and I believe the artist is only the conduit for what is iconically "encrypted".That making art is allowing that "pathway" to open and work through the artist

          I believe that each great painting is as iconic to its creator as it is to itsviewers..across all time, for as long as the art is available to humanity.
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      Feb 5 2014: Natashsa.

      Nabokov was a boundaries among his senses . All experience for him had layers and perceptions that are not part of ordinary experience.. I think n this poem "artistically caged" means surrounded by such wonder , beauty and mystery as this earth gives forth. He is not expression a limitation but a wonderment. ...or so I see in this
      • Feb 5 2014: Hi, Lindsay !!!
        "I think in this poem "artistically caged" means surrounded by such wonder , beauty and mystery as this earth gives forth."
        Yes ! What i think Magritte and Nabokov say is that Nature is artistically done and we are " artistically caged "
        It's like in the poem, don't remember the author " I am native here and see what natives see " We all can touch what great artists can touch with only the difference that their skills allow them to bring it as a symbol and the rest of us can relate to it. Art which is made is like a residue of the felt moment of experience of beauty, you can recognise it in a symbol only if you have your own, you see experience was there it acted in this place and here what is left.

        Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts !
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          Feb 5 2014: Natasha,

          Love this

          "Art which is made is like a residue of the felt moment of experience of beauty, you can recognise it in a symbol only if you have your own, you see experience was there it acted in this place and here what is left."

          well said

          I see we are on the same page

          thank to exchange with you.

          and to bring it full circle from your lovely expression on what art is.....

          our yearning for beauty , our attraction to it is our yearning to be connected to the world
  • Jan 30 2014: A recent iPad commercial attributes to this idea by quoting Whitman. It says that the world needs scientists and mathematicians to help understand our world. But what really helps us observe and express the universe around us is art and poetry, says the ad. I agree with this but I also think that art has something to do with our legacy. Whether we know it or not, we are creating art and poetry and any other form of expression to show future generations what we were about. Just as the Renaissance artist showed the transformation during that time period. So as to the question of independent thinking because we have reached the brim. It is true that art and music and poetry nowadays are not original but a regurgitation of the past. However, just as the universe is practically infinite, the combination of ideas that have been used before makes it original. Art will forever be important, because without expression, we become creatures of habit.

    Safe Pondering,
  • Jan 30 2014: In my opinion Art is a matter of opinion. It is a phenomenon of the brain not of the world, as personal and contextualized as happiness or hatred. An artist speaks mind to mind through a medium. The medium is thus only a means, and has no individual agency.

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    Jan 27 2014: "Art is nice expression of something."
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    Jan 26 2014: I like this question because I was just thinking about it myself. For me (I think?) art can be classed as a product of anything creative, and that will evoke an emotional response from viewers. There is nothing to say that we have to care about art, the pragmatist probably has no interest, but I believe to a large number of people it is important, not only for artists themselves as a means of catharsis, but for viewers, its very much so like having an introverted discussion with yourself how you respond to art. This, and for as long as it has been in existence, art is influence, art influences its viewers in a way that words written or spoken cannot.

    It is disappointing to see the decline in creative programs, but art will still be around, it wont ever disappear, because to me it is the essence of humanity, so until that dwindles I think we're alllll good

    And in no way are we supersaturated with knowledge, we are at the beginning, at a 1:1000 concentration measure of knowledge so art will perservere!!!!
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    Jan 26 2014: expression. without it, we are merely meat machines and a machine is nothing to aspire to
  • Jan 25 2014: Art is Nature, Nature is Art. But it can be perceived through 'self', it's us.
    The less we are paying attention to the beauty of nature/art the less we know thyself, the less we are... and vice versa.
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    Jan 24 2014: Art is human. An outward expression of a human thought. No more and no less.
  • Jan 24 2014: As I have seen it essentially used by many who call themselves "artists" and sneer at mere "illustrators" or "sellouts":

    If anyone likes it, it is merely commercialism and not art.
    If anyone understands it, it is merely illustration and not art.
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    Jan 24 2014: This question was asked in another conversation at TED.
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    Jan 24 2014: ""What Is Art?" (Russian: Что такое искусство? [Chto takoye iskusstvo?]; 1897) is an essay by Leo Tolstoy in which he argues against numerous aesthetic theories which define art in terms of the good, truth, and especially beauty. In Tolstoy's opinion, art at the time was corrupt and decadent, and artists had been misled."
  • Feb 23 2014: Art is a symptom of boredom. You cannot teach somebody to be bored. Neither can you teach artistic flair. You can facilitate them In a school but modern society has become reluctant to subsidise the bored. Anyway, the best Art was and is produced by the tortured. Let's not molly-coddle them.
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    Feb 15 2014: Jr won the Ted prize last year. Google him and check out his art. Are u going to Vancouver?
  • Feb 15 2014: Art still can be 'art' to the ones who claim to have no such thing as an artistic sense—no boundaries are needed.
    I am way far from being an artist, but considering the fact that I, just like others, get impressed by songs, drawings, and fashion—certainly in the category of “artistic work” to people like me, who’ve only been ‘educated’ to define ‘art’ at least in that way(?) encourages me to be more open to “art”.

    Art frees our minds. And what really matters is being honest to oneself—let that awkward, clumsy way of expressions, which, you might think, is hard to be considered as “art” yet, be freed.
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    Feb 15 2014: Lindsay, your thread in this conversation struck a happy nerve in me. I think we should be separating art from artists much in the same way we can separate empathy from psychologists or math from mathematicians. Art is a product of our imagination, something everyone has and few use. It is the use of imagination, expressed in a spectrum of sensory formats, that does enable co-existence and fullness of humanity. Actually, that's what makes JR's work so powerful.
  • Ryan P

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    Feb 15 2014: Art is the portrayal of emotions detectable by the five senses. It is also a creation. This could mean music or paintings or sculptures or chalk drawings on a sidewalk.
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    K H

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    Feb 10 2014: Art is communication. Art means something different to everyone for a reason. Some people learn how to draw by simply watching their surroundings. We often forget that art can be (and is often) self taught. Many of the great visual artists in history taught themselves. True art comes from what the brain wants to convey: an idea, a philosophy, a state of mind, hopes and dreams. Formal instruction aids in perfecting technique, but technique must be accompanied by a message. Everyone has seen a sketch where the realism is there, but the eyes seem dead or the symmetry of the face, unreal. The emotion, the communication, is not effective. The rest of the sketch may be accurate in terms of technique. But where is the idea that is being conveyed? The artwork is "lifeless". When one draws, there must be a goal. There can be no second guessing. If you second guess about the emotions you are trying to convey, there is no way you can convey those emotions. One can lack technique but still convey emotion. One can break artistic convention and still get the power of their message across.
    Literature is essentially the same, only with literature, it is easier to have one's work accepted. This is simply because language is a shared code, whereas visual art is defined differently by each individual. Literature is also communication. Why do people write? Why do poets write poetry? Why do novelists write novels? To explain something, whether it is an argument or a philosophy.
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    Feb 10 2014: In my old art school I was instructed to paint a still life. Art teachers asked me to create my “impression” of a display of a vase and a pear.

    Every time I looked at that live display, I had a new, slightly changed impression of it. To my amusement there were not one but many impressions I had to deal with. At first, this absolutely confused me. To create one collective impression I had to look at the display many times. I liked the process of collecting and selecting different impressions, even groups of things, finding their differences, relationships and connections. I came to realize that this procedure of collecting and selecting images in groups reveals the most basic thinking process. Without the natural instinctive ability of comparison I cannot recognize or memorize a thing.
    Later in my science college I was amazed how clearly that art procedure of painting demonstrated the very mental process of any sorts of thinking, including math and physics.
    We must compare numbers and symbols in order to recognize them and put them in "one" composition or what we call equation.

    There are usually too many “things” that can easily overwhelm our minds therefore our nature’s granted artistic ability to make a limited composition of them, such as a thought, concept, image, story is blessing help.

    My childhood thinking in my old art class was “Our great Crudeness of perception limits our mentality but for a good
reason. We are not getting absolutely lost in the endless ocean of all events.”

    A mind Composes its Still Life of images of all sorts, words, numbers or symbols Framed in its order to play its logic.

    My first observations eventually led me to the new field of epistemology where endless study on nature and limitations of human perception of reality are required. Our minds are Naturally Artistic and instinctively follow "artist's old rules" just in order to perceive, in order to think, in order to exist. Art will live as long as we wil
  • Feb 7 2014: Addendum, Lots of people thing Michaelagelo's Sistene Chapel is art. It's craftsmanship. But what was art was the taking of liberty to make the hand of god and Adam rather homo-erotic right above the noses of the Catholic hierarchy. Personally I missed that detail until someone made it an avatar, then I had a belly laugh. That's art. He gave them what they wanted which was a tremendous lot of religious propaganda done in exquisite craftsmanship. But he sneaked that bit of his own sexuality right in the middle to give them a bit of the old finger.
  • Feb 7 2014: Not only to we live in a society that has demonized socialism to the extent of cashing in our Buck Rogers future for the price of WMD enough to kill us all a million times over, It is not unfair to ask if the continued social development neglect in education even more than 20 years after the end of foreign collectivism being a threat is archetypal that we are not just anti-socialism but just plain anti-social. How this relates to your question is typified in the incredible sophistication in music technology while at the same time music has lost the heart, soul and character that made it a global renaissance phenomenon half a century ago. Is it just coincidence? Or is it emblematic? I see it as emblematic?

    There are no authentic pop ditties that communicate simple emotions that we could share and more. There is a lot of over-produced self-pity-ditties made made guys with 5 days beard growth, arms full of tatts all trying to recreate the gravel of Curt Cobain. Or there is manufactured girly music for the archetypically misunderstood bi-sexual. But the renaissance that was the art of music is long over because of social defaults to simply become alternative just to be alternative. That reflects a lack of empathy, unwillingness to open one's heart, snobbishness and social neglect. All the intelligence is still there--its in the technology. But lost is what to do with it--which was a product of times when a person built their own guitar out of scraps and used it to bring happiness to themselves and their peers. As impressive as technology is, it says nothing by itself and people are so socially screwed up they can't even look at each other. Every video is shot in tiny pieces of perfection that adds up to self-indugent twaddle to fake out people who don't know any better. I believe is social development as a societal commitment and returning to facing feelings of primitive but sincere character in song.
  • Feb 7 2014: Art is everything, art is life. We should not care one bit what it is, we just have to enjoy it.
  • Feb 7 2014: Art is the appreciation of life. From our early days of school there should be a class that inspires creativity as a path to finding joy in life. Our lives should be works of art from start to finish without any pressure to define us beyond what we are drawn to. From this foundation, all other learning becomes tools to assist us in our creation. Children should be given a chart that is a table of contents of the span of human knowledge that shows whats available and what they've learned already. They should then be allowed to choose what to learn and when to learn it. They can share what they've learned with their friends and with them make new things. Life is an art. Knowing that, we can get started...
  • Feb 6 2014: Art is very much a means of expressing how we feel to the world, we express ourselves with art so others can see it and know what it is we we're trying to express, they feel what the artist was trying to create, because art is expressing truth. It is a method of establishing truth, like mathematics is a way of understanding truth.
    What i'm saying is that people have the ability to make sense of the world around them, and they choose to paint or draw, write poetry and just express themselves so that someone else can understand them, because we like it when someone gets what we are talking about.
  • Feb 6 2014: Art is what the artist finds meaningful and is brave enough to share with the world, with maybe a sliver of a chance that someone else will find it meaningful, too.
  • Feb 5 2014: The real question here is: What is your definition of is?
  • Feb 5 2014: Art isn't something that can really be defined by one person in particular, because art is everything. To an accountant, art could be the interchange of numbers and the way they run his world. To an engineer, it could be watching a project come to fruition in a building, rocket, or even the space station. To most of the population, art deals more with music, dance, painting, ceramics, and subjects that stray from the general subjects, i.e. math and science. In that essence, we should focus more on art, more on the creative aspects of life. We need to take an appreciation for what exists and things that could be gone the next day. Art should be the driving force behind what society does, because it is the determination, the raw emotion, the pure essence behind most pieces of art, be it a painting, a piece of dance, a beautiful piece of pottery painstakingly made so that every meticulous detail was perfect, that should be what people strive for. That being said, I will not deny the need for the other subjects. they are detrimental to every society. Those subjects need to be NOT jammed down the throats of children learning now. They just can't be the center piece to children's education. Learning the beauty of finding Art in everything should be the center.
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    Feb 5 2014: I have started an innovative program/Contests to encourage and support non-commercial original thought, as well as to develop and establish real values for the unknown and unique. I believe that the soul of originality now is hidden and not easy to find in our commercial world immersed in mass production and false values.

    Our obligation is to search for this very soul of originality and give it a chance to become a soul of our cultural future.

    We have been publishing the most original works in the Fine Art Magazine for years (purchasing a full page for the artists), and keep introducing unknown art work of the talented struggling artists (from America, Europe Australia. China, Japan and other countries) to public-in-large.
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    Feb 5 2014: "I wish someone would one day attempt a tragic history of literature, showing how the various nations which now take their highest pride in the great writers and artists they can show treated them while they were alive. In such a history, the author would bring visibly before us that endless struggle which the good and genuine of all ages and all lands has to endure against the always dominant bad and wrong-headed: depict the martyrdom of almost every genuine enlightener of mankind, almost every great master of every art: show us how, with a few exceptions, they lived tormented lives in poverty and wretchedness, without recognition, without sympathy, without disciples, while fame, honor and riches went to the unworthy."
    Paragraph 18 - "Essays and Aphorisms" Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)..
  • Feb 5 2014: Art should be innocent and spontaneous.It should not be ugly as science having established laws which every one is forced to believe .
    And the most important, it should not be spectator sports.
    The Art as of now has no real meaning , It's just a branch of extended capitalism.
  • Feb 2 2014: Art is something specifically created by the human mind, and made intentionally manifest in our shared reality. I would go a bit further and say it must be understood by others to be 'good art'.

    A blacksmiths horseshoe is art, as it was made with skill and creativity. Dropping a cup of milk on the floor, no matter how beautiful the spill pattern resulting from that is, is not art since it was not intentional.
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    Jan 29 2014: In general, Art is a psychological, philosophical, metaphysical etc manifestations of human perceptions of reality on any medium of expression.

    to me Art is any painting, music, sculpture etc that bothers and shattered my conditioned perceptions of any form of matter/reality and imbued within me the sense of beauty, spirit of inquiry and asking questions.

    i also think Art is something that bring out our true self.we should care for art, because it's therapeutic, it promotes different perceptions on life and reality, it questions our conditined lifestyle and most of all it takes us into another plane of existence and adventure.

    therefore Art is a road towards being more humane.
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    Jan 27 2014: any creation shared with others is art
  • Jan 26 2014: Gord,

    I have the sense that you are arguing for the continuation of art, music programs which seem to be cut 1st. I agree with you they should not be cut.
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    Jan 26 2014: Art is limitless, just as is knowledge. Use it. The fact that it is being marginalized is a problem with the core system. The curriculum is programmed to make societal dependents. Art would give us too much individual identity and make us less susceptive to political influence. The war on creativity is almost over and we have lost.
  • Jan 26 2014: In today's terms with the ingenuity of the inventor you can exclude all things or "everything that isn't ART and the sum of what's left is art. I use lower case art because what's left is always interpreted, described by those closest to that form, usually the inventor, which they have interpreted as art. The closer you are to the form of "art" the more you care. ROTC is also being eliminated in our education system, why aren't you complaining about that.
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    Jan 26 2014: Art is a skill that is limitless and has no boundaries. Art is the quality of a person to do something. Each & every person has some art hidden in himself/herself which when exposed turns into a creativity which is known as art.
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    Jan 26 2014: There's personal art then there is agreed art and cultural art and then the very last is grey scale art.
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    Jan 25 2014: At least - great question. Talk to you soon.

  • Jan 25 2014: Art is the expression of all things that pertain to life and death. It is the expression of all things pertaining to self. If we don't care what art is, we are careless of anybody's feelings or ideas. We would be like deaf mutes, totally oblivious to the communication of life.
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    Jan 24 2014: Gord G, you speak of art as being marginalized or eliminated in our education system, and as a supporter online education I have to wonder about online art classes. I searched and there are many of them, (putting aside many are likely just scams) I have to question how well online art classes work?

    Sure an artist can learn how to through a Ceramic Pot without it breaking or get an effect painting and get reviewed and feedback from peers, learn art history, (wow that is a better list than I thought it was going to be) anyway I think we need to have community art centers as a standard in all communities.

    Has anyone taken an online art class? I just talk myself into checking into them.
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      Jan 24 2014: While I personally have not been successful in learning technique from a video, let me tell you where you will find a wealth of opportunity for online art instruction. Look up Wetcanvas, an enormous community of artistic practice. I know professional artists who have told me they have learned everything they know from Wetcanvas. It is hard to navigate at first, but it is a goldmine.

      Look at the index on the left of the screen and click on your medium or subject of choice to start.

      Strathmore, a source of artist papers, has something called Strathmore Artist Workshops which I have known art hobbyists to love.
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    Jan 24 2014: That creativity is an important and ubiquitous human trait is clear, but this doesn't suggest it is important to define rigorously what art is. The line from Mary Poppins comes to mind- "It's like trying to catch a cloud and pin it down."

    In my experience educators, like most others, understand the value of creativity and encourage and celebrate it in school settings. It is a regular component of the rubric in student projects, I believe.