The greatest coping mechanism is lying in bed, turning off the lights, closing your eyes, putting in headphones, and blasting whatever music you want, for as long as you want, and as loud as you want. This has been my go-to “fixer” ever since I can remember, and trust me, it helps. Music as an art form can be so simple and so basic, yet can transform someone’s entire outlook on life. Music, along with dance, film, painting, poetry, or whatever medium art might take, can help us make big decisions, overcome grief, empower us, give us closure, set some perspective, and, quite literally, change the world. Art, in all its forms, simple or complex, can heal us, give us balance, and put us back on track. I am spellbound by the power of art to unite, divide, conquer, and communicate, and am astounded by its spiritual and medicinal value.
Why art? Art has grave importance in human society, yet it is not technically necessary. What is technically necessary is food, water, shelter, etc, yet some could argue that art is as important. Art does not provide anything practical for our survival, but it is still crucial, so why do we need it? Or do we even need it?
Long story short: yes, humans need art.
We have always desired a way to express ourselves non-verbally, for imagery and self-expression are probably one of the most human things that we do. Yes, of course there are all of those facts, studies, and statistics proving how art can improve mental health, grades, communication, relationships, etc, but there is also a much larger, more important, philosophical picture in the argument for why humans need art: art enriches the human experience. No one will ever truly determine the meaning of life, no one will ever know why we’re here; this universally shared experience will always be a mystery; however, art gives us humans some sense of purpose within that mystery. Imagine a life without art for a second: no music, no painting, no poetry, no dance, etc. Does this sound manageable? Survivable, certainly, but art isn’t limited to these disciplines. There is art all around us, even if we’re not seeking it. The flowers and trees that cities plant in public areas is art, and its intended purpose is to lift people up. Graffiti on buildings is art, and a form of self-expression; architecture everywhere we look is art, as their design is not only for practicality, but also for aesthetic purposes. Art is the color scheme that goes into houses in neighborhoods, it’s the type of clothing we decide to put on our bodies, it’s the way we style our hair, it’s the nature and natural beauty around us, it’s even science itself. Without art, the world would be bland and meaningless: work, eat, sleep, repeat, over and over again.
We often fail to realize and appreciate the constant beauty around us, and in turn, take art for granted.
Humans are social beings, and need art to communicate. There are some things that cannot be communicated through words, and art fills that gap. Art is a medium for the communication of ideas, beliefs, or values that couldn’t be communicated before. When someone writes or shows someone a song, book, film, painting, etc, saying “this is how I feel,” it’s because that person could not communicate certain emotions without this medium. Art is possibly the only thing that unites every single person in the world. We all think, act, and look so different from one another, we have separate cultures, separate morals, values, and traditions. Art, however, is one thing that we are not divided on. Everyone, no matter who you are or where you came from, can enjoy a painting, a song, or a green garden. It’s a universal language.
Even going out to concerts and seeing live music for at least twenty minutes can increase your lifespan, according to a study by O2 and Patrick Fagan. Just two hours of exposure to art every week, whether that be listening to music, creating music, strolling through a gallery, or painting, can improve your mental health and overall well-being. Students who take art classes as well as academic classes, statistically do better in school, are happier, receive higher grades, and even test better. In addition, according to the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), conducted by the University of Michigan, “adults who both created art and attended arts events reported higher cognitive functioning and lower rates of both hypertension and limitations to their physical functioning than did adults who neither created nor attended art.” Art, in sum, is just good for us.
We may never know why art is so special to us and why humans need a creative outlet, but we know that we do. A life without art wouldn’t even really be a “life”. Art gives us meaning, purpose, passion– it is one of the keys to our human existence.
art by Julie Torres