Art can unite and divide. It can be found everywhere, including fancy galleries, people’s living rooms, and on the sides of buildings. Art fans debate about the meaning of art and whether something is “true” art. With most art, there’s no simple answer. What is clear is that art matters. Here are ten reasons why it’s important:
#1. Art helps us build a fuller picture of history
Humans possess a natural drive to create art. We learn about the ancient past through cave drawings, tracking how humans progressed over the years. By looking at art from different eras, we can get a fuller picture of society’s values at any given time. We can also identify patterns of thinking that repeat again and again. Learning from the past is crucial for our future. Art provides us with a unique form of learning.
#2. Art is good for mental health
Many studies show that creating art helps people with depression and anxiety symptoms. While engaging in something artistic, a person’s level of cortisol (a hormone linked to stress) decreases. This is why art therapy is often so successful when paired with traditional talk therapy or medication. Art helps a person express their feelings and emotions in a way words can’t.
#3. Art is good for your brain health
Considering its effect on mental health, it makes sense that art is good for your brain. Creative activities run parallel to improved reasoning and memory. Dr. Arnold Bresky, a physician who focuses on art therapy for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, reports significant memory improvement in those who paint or draw. He believes that art helps build connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
#4. Art is good for children
Starting at a young age, activities like drawing and painting help kids develop motor skills, stretch their imagination, and express their feelings. While a kid may not have the language to describe their emotions, a closer look at their drawings can reveal the truth. Arts education has also been shown to positively impact children in a school setting. According to research, the arts can improve a kid’s grades, social connections, and self-esteem.
#5. Art is useful in a business setting
The impact of art isn’t limited to museums or galleries. Research shows that artwork improves employees’ morale in an office setting. In one study, 94% of surveyed people said that artwork enhanced their workspace. 84% said that the presence of art shows that an employer cares about the staff’s quality of life. In settings where customers come in, art is also very important as it conveys a message about the business and sets an emotional tone.
#6. Art is good for society
The arts aren’t only good for kids. Everyone can benefit. Participating in community art projects is linked to increased civic engagement and a deeper understanding of others. It builds what is known as “human, social, and community capital.” Art is an excellent facilitator for a unified sense of purpose among community members. In societies that encourage the arts, people are more likely to feel connected to one another and have pride in their culture.
#7. Art increases productivity
Whether you work from home or in an office building, art can help boost your productivity. A study by a professor from UMass Amherst revealed that workers who had pictures in their workspaces were 17% more productive. Other research showed that workers complete tasks 15% faster than people who only have the bare essentials.
#8. Art serves a political purpose
Art has always served a purpose beyond beauty. It’s been harnessed as a form of activism and satire, elevating the voices of oppressed groups and calling out oppressors. Famous artists like Marina Abramovic and Banksy use art in very different ways to express ideas and comment on the world. When an idea is judged as politically dangerous, it’s often called “obscene.” Therefore, it must be unacceptable. Art can be censored and, in extreme cases, taken over by authorities. Then it becomes propaganda.
#9. Art is a universal form of communication
There’s a lot of division in this world. Language barriers make communication challenging. Art is one of the few universal forms of communication. Whether it’s looking at a painting or hearing a piece of music, people don’t need to speak the same language to feel connected emotionally. Sharing in this experience makes the world a more welcoming, understanding place.
#10. Art is associated with empathy
Empathy is understanding the emotions of someone or something outside of yourself. Can art make people more empathetic? There’s research to suggest that it does. A few years ago, the Minneapolis Institute of Art established the world’s first Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts. Their goal is to learn how to encourage empathy through visual arts. While we don’t have a solid answer on if or how art triggers empathy, there’s a close enough association to make it worth investigating.