7. Art Completes Our HumanityIt seems appropriate to share the thoughts of poet, critic, and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana Gioia, whom I had the pleasure of hearing speak at a conference in 2003. His address, as I recall, was focused on the need for arts education but it could be equally applied to our everyday lives.
The Greek word for art (“to make”) is “poiesis,” which Gioia described as “a way of knowing the world” separate from but equal to science and mathematics. As I addressed above, the latter two disciplines carry much more weight in budgeting by lawmakers and those who set school curriculum standards.
When art is seen as a luxury, Gioia’s argument goes, it is considered unnecessary to our survival and, indeed, to our prosperity. We are complicated beings, not just analysts. We have emotions, desires, and fears that can’t be explored or expressed through science and math alone.
Gioia explained that art is used to educate children about their feelings, not just their analytical thought processes. This comes in handy when, as adults, they are asked to analyze situations and not just facts and figures.
The arts foster individuality, freedom, and self-expression, the very ideals on which our nation is built. Art is not a luxury, but absolutely necessary, to complete our humanity. It is “mainstream civic common sense,” Gioia said.
In a commencement address to Seattle Pacific University, Gioia drove it home: “Art … simultaneously addresses our intellect, our senses, our emotions, our imagination, our intuition, our memory and our physical body — not separately, but together, simultaneously, holistically.”