Secular Sources of Hope Part 3: The Aesthetic Imperative

It’s really hard to describe the feeling of hope the arts give people. We attempted it before in The Arts: A Vital part of being human but even that didn’t really do it justice. In Howe’s description he says:

  1. The Aesthetic Imperative – utilizing the visual Arts- both elite and popular- as a mechanism for social and personal transformation. All four case studies embody explicit sources of ‘hope’ for 21st century individuals, communities and societies.

The important part of what he said being ‘as a mechanism for social and personal transformation”.

Part 1: Social Transformation

All forms of the arts painting, sculpture, music, theater, movies…etc. all have a powerful ability to express in a way that promotes social transformation in everything from economic and social justice to equal rights and equality to ecology…etc. There are many examples of people using art to enact social change. Here are some of the more famous ones:

Guernica by Picasso

Dada: An anti- war movement inspired by world war 1 that primarily used satire.

David Alfaro Siqueiros: Used his art to reach out to common people of Mexico.

Picasso: His work Guernica is credited as inspiring the modern human rights movement.

Vietnam: Ronald Haeberle, Peter Saul, Carl Andre, Norman Carlberg and Nancy Spero all used their art as a form of protest and made a significant impact.

In More modern times:

Some of Banksy’s work.

Banksy: An anonymous graffiti artist who uses his art to make political and social statements.

Rage Against The Machine: Used music to  inspire an entire generation to be active in social and political change.

Pussy Riot: A band who famously went to jail for protesting Putin and government corruption in Russia.

The arts can give us so much hope to that we can make positive change in the world Adorno said:

 ‘all art is an uncommitted crime’,

Personal Transformation:

The arts are so powerful we can use the arts to transform not just culture and society but ourselves as well. We can find our personal lives transforming through the arts in three different ways:

It’s Therapeutic

Artistic expression of all kinds leads a satisfaction not only in completing an art piece but expressing ourselves in whatever way we feel. Expression of an art from is so good for you that some psychotherapists actually use art therapy to treat mental illnesses and unresolved psychological issues.

It Expands Horizons

Getting involved in artistic expression opens doors to different cultures and other worldviews. Either in the art works themselves and/or the other artists.

Lifestyle Change

The arts can lead to entire lifestyle change. You don’t need to pursue the arts as a career to being involved in art museums, clubs and galleries.  As a hobby one can engage in many rewarding social activities and get to know other artists and influential figures in the arts.

Whether you use your artistic expression to reach and make change through political and social statements or to bring change in yourself both will  bring powerful meaning and hope into your life.










The Arts: A Vital Part of Being Human

When I was 15 years old I was quite the rocker. If you asked me my feelings on opera I would have laughed and criticized it. Somehow a friend of mine convinced me to join a school trip to see The Phantom of the Opera and it changed me forever. Not only did I really enjoy it but it opened my mind to other genres of music and performing arts. I spent the next few years volunteering at a university radio station exploring different genres of music and it made me very happy.

Stories like mine are very common, the arts move people in various ways and is difficult to explain but there is some understanding now:

Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts

The Psychology of Artists and the Arts

Art, Aesthetics, and the Brain

How Music Works: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond

A small list but a good example of the intense study that has gone into how and why the arts effect us the way they do.

However, how can one put into word the importance of the arts to our humanity? Artistic expression is a powerful medium and the arts effect us all in one way or another.

Imagine society without the civilising influence of the arts and you’ll have to strip out what is most pleasurable in life – and much that is educationally vital. Take the collective memory from our museums; remove the bands from our schools and choirs from our communities; lose the empathetic plays and dance from our theaters or the books from our libraries; expunge our festivals, literature and painting, and you’re left with a society bereft of a national conversation … about its identity or anything else. Sir Peter Bazalgette

Entertainment, education, the economy, our community and even our national identities are all shaped by the arts. Without the arts you have a culture nearly void of pride, pleasure and historical relevance. The effects of artistic expression to psychological well being is so well documented that it is used as a therapeutic approach by psychologists. There is no contesting that the arts are important and as culture moves away from religion the arts will be a vital part of providing an alternative to what religion provides.


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