Can Art Create Community?

If the question is ‘Can Art Create Community’ then the answer should be obvious. Art is intimately married to an innate human need to communicate. It can express and provoke thought.  It gives us an ability to record events and tell stories. We can understand ourselves or even ponder the sacred.   How has this been true and how has it changed?

Drawing in Caves

Lascaux BisonIn France, one can visit the caves at Lascaux to see cave drawings made nearly 17,000 years ago. This tells us that drawing appeared before the written language.  The means of communicating or recording events was done by a visual medium.  One could even suggest that the Lascaux artists were expressive in their renderings.  The purpose of their drawings were to relate to each other about their rites, rituals and events. These were shared within their group and to their future generations.

Unifying the Masses

GiottoAfter the advent of Christianity, the primary way of relating the story of Christ to the masses was through iconography.  The symbolic icons unified the Church and the communities they served.  These symbol-like “portraits” of biblical characters created a collective consciousness towards daily life. Eventually these icons became humanized by some of the Early Gothic fresco painters.  The most groundbreaking examples are often considered to be by the hand of Giotto.      

A Sense of Self

Da VinciThe Gothic periods morphed into the age known as the Renaissance.  The awareness of science began to mix with the reverence of God.  The self was becoming recognized.  The subject of art turned to the individual and community members.  Paintings depicted modern fashion and contemporary portrait figures of the age.  For the first time, art was becoming not just a function of unifying a community. Art was becoming a commodity as well. These artworks served to advance ideas that set the stage for the modern movements to come.

A Healthy Home

MonetToday, art can advance a cause via graphic arts. It can raise awareness through public art.  Art can raise consciousness from conceptual pieces.  Art can also simply entertain and edify through the traditional fine arts. 

Fyodor Dostoevsky is famously quoted with, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”  

Another version of that is; “The health of a society can be judged by its treatment of the arts”.

Art can create community. It makes communities better by giving its population something to be better with. Expression, awareness, entertainment, poetry, beauty, examination are human needs. These are also human qualities that are ours to share.  Literacy in art means ideas are developed and exchanged, issues are heard, viewpoints are expressed, problems are exposed, solutions are offered.  There is no doubt that art not only decorates our walls but creates community as much as it serves community. 

Take a moment and feel free to write how the arts are included or nurtured in your community. I’d love hear from you. Share a note about what value the Arts has had on your life or neighborhood. How have the Arts directly effected you?

Stay safe, and may we practice peace together while making our lives enriched and meaningful.


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