The Importance of Art

By Glen Ward


            Governmental organizations and municipalities are constantly considering the reduction or elimination of funding for the arts.  The consequences of that decision would be devastating to the natural progression and growth of civilization on this planet.  Artists, throughout the existence of mankind have played the single most important role in the development of humanity.

            The plains Indians of America have a saying, “A people without a history is like the wind on the Buffalo Grass.”  It moves the grass while it’s here, but leaves no trace when it’s gone. 

            In the development of all cultures, only the victor and the survivor chart the direction of their society. The artist, however, writes its history.  We have only to look at the cave paintings in France, the hieroglyphs in the tombs of Egyptian pharos, and architectural remains all over the world to confirm the value of the artist. From the renderings of the painter who people accuse of smelling too much brush cleaner, or the sculptures of Michael Angelo, from the writings of Plato, the parables of Jesus or the Songs of Solomon, to the writings of Truman Capote, from the rhythm of a tribal drum, the beat of a backyard square dance, or the symphony from the London Philharmonic, the artist has consistently demonstrated his invaluable existence in our universal community.

            Albert Einstein once said,  “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  Throughout history the Artist has most effectively demonstrated the ability to pursue imagination.  It is a fact that every discovery made during our cosmic existence began with an artist imagining, “What if.” 

            What if I take a piece of this black burned wood from my fire and make a mark on the side of this cave? Maybe I can show my clan members the kinds of animals I saw, or killed today.  Communication skills have advanced from yelling to one another across the field, or making markings on a cave wall to sending digital images millions of miles across space.

            What if I could take this big tree and hollow it out, maybe I could make it float on top of that water so I could get to the other side without getting wet.  The mobility of humanity has progressed from placing one bare foot in front of the other to leaping beyond the forces that keep our feet planted firmly on the ground.

            What if I made a mark that would represent this particular sound or word I say, or a mark that would represent the cattle or goats or sheep I possess?  From carrying bags of stones, to calculating projected courses and consumption of fuel to reach the outer regions of our universe, the artist has generated the imagination that set the wheels in motion.  What if I could fly?  What if I could go to the moon?  It was the exercise of this imagination that humanity has gained knowledge through the ages.

            Artists have taught us how to make music and sing and dance.  Artists have taught us how to draw and paint, write, and build.  Artists have recorded our history, enhanced and entertained our present, and inspired the ideas for our future. 

            The human intellect, however, has been grossly suppressed when it comes to understanding and developing the assets of consciousness we possess.  Through out history we have been given glimpses of things that are possible but, because of fear of the unknown or persecution from those hoping to harness power for their own personal gain, we have chosen to dismiss these glimpses as coincidence or labeled them as evil things to be shunned, ignored, or destroyed. What if that young artist had listened to his oppressors and really believed, “If man were supposed to fly, God would have given him wings.”

            As an artist, I wish the world could see what I think.  Because without the vision on my imagination and the imagination of countless other artists, the pursuit of knowledge would be mired in the mud of tradition.