Importance of Art: Culture + Community

By: Bruce Kent

Art is everywhere. Take a moment, examine the world around you. One doesn’t have to go far to notice the vast impact art has on life. Items that people engage with on a daily basis is as much apart of Art as Leonardo's Mona Lisa. The chair that one sits in is art, or the design of your refrigerator. There is always a designer/artist behind the everyday items that people use; It is important to note that these items have been designed with function in mind as well as aesthetics. Other forms of art such as paintings and sculpture might have a functionality to them, but they are really the pure expression of the human soul. Art has been a highly important part of human development since civilization. Where there is art there is culture. The artists is thought of highly in ancient cultures, as well as in modern times because they have an uncanny ability to express the deepest desires of the community in which the artist represents. People said that artists were able to communicate with the gods, which can be considered true depending on what approach one takes to look at it. Art is also important to the development of culture because art can communicate with the people by showing stories, the deepest thoughts of the human psyche, and has encoded information that refers to a particular group of people or time in history.

    Everyday one is bombarded with a plethora of symbols from ads, instagram shots, snapchats, and signs. All these images are communicating to the individual on one level or another. It is up to the interpreter to decode what they are looking at. Are the images there for entertainment, to tell a story, or to persuade. These are the questions one should ask when viewing such images. Look at the cave paintings found in Lascaux (a series of caves in Southwestern France), on the walls there are depictions of animals that the cavemen use to hunt. These communicated stories of these epic battles between man and beast. Also if one considers the materials that the art was made of, this too gives us an insight into how that group of people lived.

Fast forward to the tombs of the ancient Egyptians you also see the stories writing on the tombs. These stories speak to that specific culture about the gods. How they lived in relation to the people that looked up to them. Encoded within the walls of ancient Egypt is the keys on how the Egyptians could live long prosperous lives and the fate of those souls who didn’t. The Egyptians used pictorial images not only to tell stories but communicate sounds. Language becomes coded in the pictures which could also be used as a form of teaching. While other cultures later on used books to write sacred doctrines. Egyptians found it necessary to put this information on the walls so it may be persevered for future generations so they may understand the advanced sciences the culture were dealing with.

Transport yourself to the time of the Harlem Renaissance and you get a group of people who made art the central driving force of the people. Harlem Renaissance artists like Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence were partaking in a movement and cultural shift that heavily influenced the minds of Black Americans at the time. With the influx of Jazz, Hip-Hop, Afro-American writing, an Art; the minds of Black Americans began to expand. The art was a direct reflection of where Black Americans had been and what they were going through at the time. Artworks like Brownstones, 1958. Egg tempera on hardboard, 31 1/2 x 37 1/4 in. (80 x 94.9 cm), captivated the busy streets of Harlem. You can see this in the expressive line quality, the gestures of the figures, and the clash of a vibrant red color and the blues of the city streets.

It is preeminent that communities encourage creativity. Only through expressing creativity and displaying the talents of the individuals that live there can culture continue to move forward. Art is safe space to deal with mental health, societal or political issues that may plague the community, and art can beautify the environment. Cultures use art to communicate messages from otherworldly places to be brought into perspective for everyday people to understand. This occurs through signs, symbols, and motifs that connect to the subconscious. With that being said Firebrand Arts Network wants to encourage everyone to BE CREATIVE in every sense of the work. Art is life. Art is community. Art is You.

50 Cent Piece, Jean Basquiat