The Arts are Like Friendship
Editor's note: Some of this content was previously published for Regents School of Austin in their newsletter.
The arts are like friendship. Let me explain.
Would it be strange to you if one of your closest friends sat you down and shared that the reason why they pursued your friendship all these years is to get a new job? You thought they wanted to be your friend because you were great. But, nope, it was to get that corner office.
Sometimes we approach the fine arts in a similar way. We view them as a means to another end. Drama will make us better public speakers. Music will help us score better on standardized tests. Art will look good on the transcript. (I’ve said similar things myself.)
What if the purpose of the arts is for them to be enjoyed and celebrated? What if the fine arts reveal beauty . . . and beholding beauty needs no justification outside of itself?
Gene Edward Veith, Jr. says that’s exactly the case. “A painting in a museum exists in its own right, with no other purpose than to be beautiful and to be meaningful. It is an object for contemplation.”
IT'S ALSO LIKE INTERIOR DESIGN
This quote actually reminds me of my wonderful mother. Every time I return to my parent's home, I'm astounded by the way she has decorated each room to look and feel beautiful.
[Click on images to expand them]
My brother-in-law once described the home as feeling "full of the Spirit." No doubt you get this sense walking in the door because my parents are godly men and women who are truly filled with the Spirit. But my mother's eye for balance, color, value translate into joy, peace, warmth in a way that somehow reinforces that this space is a gift from God to bless all who enter. I recently posted some pictures of the home on Facebook, and friend quickly commented, "Your parents' home gives you an instant hug the moment you walk in. It is a haven."
Sure, you might say, decorating a home has a functional purpose. You need stuff in it like a couch and a table and a bed. But when you look around. . . there's so many non-functional items. Paintings. Vases. Shells. (I'm really not doing it justice, because I could NEVER re-create what she has done.)
So, what is the purpose of matching these non-functional items with the functional ones?
And does beauty need to be defended? God gave us beauty to behold it.
Hans R. Rookmaaker in his small little work Art Needs No Justification, says it best:
God gave humanity the skill to make things beautiful, to make music, to write poems, to make sculpture, to decorate things. The artistic possibilities are there to be actualized, realized by man, and to be given a concrete form. God gave this to mankind and its meaning is through God, that is through the talents he gives, in obedience to him and in love for him and our fellow men, and in this way offered to him.
But if art has in this way its own meaning as God's creation it does not need justification. Its justification is its being a God-given possibility. (40, emphasis mine)