Learning About the Arts

Some people are intimidated by the idea of trying to become “cultured.” That’s partly because the very idea of “art” can make people think of stuffy, pretentious professors in fancy suits sitting in a room eating quinoa and arguing about whether or not Shakespeare really wrote Hamlet. There’s an idea that certain types of art are only for the very rich or the very educated, and that’s not the case. Art can and should be for everyone who expresses an interest in it. Not all types of art will click with everyone, but it’s still worth exploring the various means of expression and finding something that works for you on a personal level. The best kinds of art can make you a more well-rounded, interesting individual.

Music, movies, and more

When you go see the latest Avengers movie, you’re going to see a work of art. Yes, it’s true. A fun action movie with superheroes has just as much a right to call itself art as one of those fancy French movies with subtitles that’s showing at the indie movie theater downtown. There are as many definitions of the word “art” as there are creative people attempting to practice it. It can be viewed by millions of people in a 20-screen multiplex or by a few dozen people attending a slam poetry event. It’s a creative expression that can use words, images, music, and more. Sometimes the artist wants to convey a very specific point about, say, the effects of war on children, but sometimes they just want their creation to be appreciated on an aesthetic level. An action movie’s broader message might just be, “This fight scene looks really cool, huh?” And that’s fine--and even what seems like just a fight scene is still a celebration of athleticism and innovation. Movie critics may like some types of movies better than others, but there’s an ongoing debate about whether or not critical aggregation sites like Rotten Tomatoes really have an impact on how well a movie does at the box office. Some types of movies may be more “critic-proof” than others.

Those are some of the basics, but if you’re looking for a more formal introduction to art, many colleges offer innovative academic programs with classes in topics like Theatre Appreciation or Dance Appreciation. Such courses can provide students with a look at the history and traditions of various art forms.

Comfort food versus new ideas

Some people only want to experience art if it makes them think; other people only want to experience art that doesn’t make them think. Most people occupy the large middle ground between the two extremes. Think of art like food: Sometimes we want to try that new fusion restaurant downtown, but other times we’re in the mood for a simple bowl of macaroni and cheese. (And, hey, the culinary arts are an art form, too!)

Sampling the wares for yourself is the best way to figure out what appeals to your palate. If you’re interested in musicals but aren’t sure where to begin, ask around for recommendations, then go online to find tickets to see a Broadway show. Live theater has an immediacy that’s hard to beat regardless of if you’re seeing Hamilton or Mean Girls. It’s not quite the same as going to a concert by your favorite rock band, but the two experiences have more in common than it seems on the surface. Or see if a local artist has an exhibition of his or her paintings, sculptures, or photography. Sometimes we find an art form more meaningful if we know the artist. There are many roads to go, so have fun!

This article is sponsored by Scholarship Media. Views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of WHRB.