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  • Writer's pictureGillian Cormier

The Arts—A Tool for Change

We have all experienced over 2020 the deprivation from many of the good parts of life—seeing our friends, going to the movies, traveling, going to concerts and all in all, experiencing the abundance of possibilities life gives us. Much of what was taken away from us were these experiences with the arts; at the same time, the arts was all that we had and all that we continue to have. Yet people who choose to study arts degrees, who choose the path of creativity and expression are often pushed towards other directions—in trades, skills, science and business. But do those people realize just how powerful the arts are for our world, for our wellbeing and arguably our health?

The arts make life interesting, creative, thought-provoking, curious and engaging. Reflect upon this question for a minute: what presentation do you find more engaging—the presentation with strictly scientific data presented by someone with a monotone voice, or the presentation with data presented with graphics, colours and with an engaging voice? The answer is obvious to me—of course the presentation with excitement and colour. We talk about the importance of dressing nicely for job interviews, about the importance of having a good voice, about a good resume and we forget that it is the arts that is a strong force behind these things.

So what exactly differs ‘the arts from ‘art’ on its own? The arts encompass all forms of artistic endeavours—from acting and theatre, to literature and music, to painting and pottery and all other forms of creative expression. defines ‘art’ as:

art [mass noun]: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

So we see that ‘the arts’ is more of an umbrella term than art. In other words, art sits as a category in the arts.

Now that we’ve got this technical aspect out of the way, I want to talk about why the arts are so important in our lives. The arts tie ideas together, bring about emotion, enhance understanding, provide entertainment and make life interesting. Our minds crave creativity; after all, we are naturally born with it! Children often surprise us with the things they say with their creative minds and limitless thinking. They have insights that we’ve never thought of before, surprise us with their young wisdom, and make metaphors and similes in unstructured and unbounded ways. We are all inherently creative, but many of us have been taught that it is structure that will keep us afloat. Structure has a role to play for sure, but to say that science is of more importance is something I disagree with—it is simply different. Science and the arts can work together to compliment one another beautifully. They are different.

In fact, with regards to climate science, many of our reactions to reading facts hits our system with anxiety, fear and shutdown. In the video “Why humans are bad about thinking about climate change” they talk about the science and psychology about understanding it. We all know that climate change is a huge problem. It seems out of reach, out of our control and too big to do anything about. "This fear and this guilt we know, from psychology, is not conducive to engagement. It’s quite the opposite". We mustn’t look at solely the climate science and data, but also know what we can do and how to engage as better climate stewards. Climate change has been looked at as if it is so far away, but thankfully much of the narratives have changed—thanks to new vocabulary, access to information, spread of education and the many creators out there. These creators, a shift in language, and the various forms of the arts in which climate change is communicated has moved our perception and understanding of climate change and what we can do about it.

As I’ve said in many of my past articles (and will continue to repeat), to be motivated for action in our lives—in any kind of way, we need to dig to the root of why we want to do a certain something. If we don’t have a ‘why’ then it’s likely that our goals will not be sustained, because giving up can seem easier in that very moment. The arts are a good why, that help us dive in a little deeper, dig into our creative side and rediscover beauties in life.

A perfect example of this is something that stuck with me from the book Underland by Robert MacFarlane. He converses with a fungi expert on just how underrated mushrooms are, how mushrooms do underground, unseen work for our forests and ecosystems. Robert MacFarlane quotes

“ 'Maybe then, what we need to understand the forest’s underland is a new language altogether—one that does not automatically convert it to our own use values. Our present grammar militates against animacy; our metaphors by habit and reflex subordinate and anthropomorphize the more-than-human world. Perhaps we need an entirely new language to talk about fungi… We need to speak in spores'... 'Yes!' Says Merlin. 'That’s exactly what we need to be doing—and that’s your job. That’s the job of writers and artists and poets and all the rest of you' ”.

I’m not a huge poet or a linguist, so understanding that language was quite difficult for me. If you are like me and don’t fully understand this cluster of big words, let me give you what my take on this quote is. Robert recognizes that within the English language, we speak of our plants and fungi as if they are inanimate. We need language that really recognizes the magic of our more-than-human world. We need language that recognizes the actions of nature, the livingness of our natural world—specifically our fungi! In fact, language structures like this do exist, many of them being indigenous, but that is a topic for another day.

The arts also help us with activism—visually, creatively, and deepening understanding, furthering engagement. The arts also simplify information, with engaging language, visuals, expressions, and voice. The arts stick to our bones. We remember our ABCs initially by memorizing a song, we remember how movies made us feel. The arts move us in ways that we cannot explain. The arts help us understand and help us heal. They make us laugh, make us love and live and feel.

I hope that after this read, you can reflect with yourself and your friends about just how important the arts are. I hope you can reflect and appreciate the art that exists in our everyday lives. The arts that help enhance our understanding, the arts that provide us with entertainment and laughter, the arts that help us live through our emotions and beyond.

And if you consider yourself a visual artist, then maybe you will consider sending us your art representation for The Lupine Market’s new tote bags ;)

Be the change,


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