Being a hoe of art for art's sake
by Annie Muscat
Staff Art Hoe
Imagine this: you’re enjoying a day with a friend at an art gallery. You come upon a slightly abstract painting. As you attempt to interpret and decipher the meaning of the work, your friend jokes that “the artist must have been tripping on so many drugs when he painted this.”
Such light-hearted snap judgments happen often. Sometimes people are at a loss for words when they experience art, and those who are committed to studying art feign amusement in response to ignorance. Exposing yourself to and appreciating the arts can help you gain insight into other perspectives, making you more aware of the world around you.
Consider some of the evidence. In 2013, Brian Kisida, a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, randomly selected students to participate in a field trip to a local art museum. Following analysis of student essays completed after the museum visit, Kisida and his colleagues confirmed that students demonstrated higher levels of social tolerance, stronger critical thinking skills, and a developing taste for cultural institutions. In other words, investigators discovered a direct correlation between exposure to the arts and open-mindedness.
Okay, but a lot of us already know this. As an art history major, I bought into this idea a while ago. I’m an art hoe. Love of art should transcend class boundaries and cultural identities. A true art hoe loves art for art’s sake and doesn’t discriminate between the works of renowned European artists like Marc Chagall or Gustav Klimt and minority artists like Kara Walker and Kitagawa Utamaro.
I recently visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art along Manhattan’s Museum Mile. The Met houses an expansive collection spanning over thousands of years from nearly every historical artistic era across the globe. Maneuvering through a sun-soaked atrium filled with European sculptures, I was surrounded by people of all different ages, races, and cultural backgrounds and they were all appreciating art the same way I was. Art provides a common ground for people from all walks of life to come together (that seems uncommon during this controversial election season). Art bridges the gap between cultures and forces us to see the world through a different lens. Two people can interpret the same work in drastically different ways, but discussing our interpretations with others forces us to confront and understand other people’s points of view.
Science has established that simply looking at art positively contributes to one’s well-being. Neurobiologist Semir Zeki at the University College London, discovered that viewing art enhances mental health. Brain scans revealed dopamine surges are triggered by examining artworks. This is quite promising for students of the humanities, as more employers are gravitating towards employees with knowledge of liberal arts since such training indicates an emphasis on critical thinking and creativity. Tech companies frequently hire liberal arts trainees because they bring an alternative perspective to the workplace. An appreciation for art suggests that a person is open to new experiences and cognizant of other points of view, implying that they are lifelong learners.
We’ll always need people with backgrounds in science, business, and law, of course, but it’s important to take a step back and admire what art has to offer, especially in a place like New York City. Take advantage of the artistic possibilities the city has to offer. Ditch ignorance! Go out there, explore other cultures, and discover or embrace your inner art hoe.