When there is unrest and uncertainty in the world, is art frivolous?
Some of our readers may already know that Juliana Meek served as an intelligence analyst with the CIA before resigning to continue our family gallery with her sister, Kristine. She will often sum up the vast difference of her two careers by saying she used to follow all the bad in the world, and now she follows the beauty.
There is a viral meme on social media that attributes a quote to Winston Churchill. It reads “During World War II, Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts. He replied, ‘Then what are we fighting for?’” In researching this quote for this column, as great as it is, it appears to be misattributed. However, Winston Churchill was known to have much appreciation for the arts.
A true and well documented part of World War II, though, is the formation of the ‘Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section Unit’. This unit was tasked with saving cultural items of importance. What this group understood is that far from frivolous, art is so important to mankind that it is worth taking great risk to
In times of unrest, art can play several roles. On one level, it helps us escape, by finding beauty and joy in something. During a home renovation when we were children, all the artwork was removed. Kristine was sitting quietly one day, and our mom asked her why she seemed sad. Her response was that all the windows
to her worlds were gone. Works of art can be windows to other worlds where our imaginations freely roam, whether with the subject matter or the colors and textures.
Art can also be humorous or fun. During the Great Depression artists like Adolf Dehn (1895-1968), created humorous drawings and lithographs intended to make people smile during those hard days. These works continue to resonate with people today.
Artists throughout history have also used turmoil as a subject in their works. These works capture and help viewers process the emotions of the time in a visual manner. Reynier Llanes (b. 1984) is a contemporary artist who paints world events as they unfold. Llanes is taking after the great masters including Pablo Picasso
and his famous “Guernica”.
Another role of art is future learning. The idea is that youth who are exposed to art are less likely to become destructive because the nature of art is creative. As a gallery, we engage students in art as often as possible. Most recently, we sponsored $10,000 in scholarships with an art contest for public high school students in Collier County. This was in partnership with the County Centennial celebrations and in partnership with the County Government and School District. Students created works highlighting the history and culture of Collier County. This fills the role of art perfectly in supporting creative thought and appreciation for history and culture.
Art serves many levels of importance, whether in times of peace or in times of unrest. It is never frivolous, even if a work of art is intended to help us smile.
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