The following is a reprint of Kelly Borsheim's Art Newsletter from October 10, 2002:
by Kelly Borsheim, artist
How Important Is Art Really?
I recently attended a public meeting with The Austin (Texas) Arts Commission. The purpose was for the Arts Commission to hear public opinion on whether or not to recommend to city council certain changes (improvements) to the Austin Art in Public Places program. Not having done public art before, I did not intend to speak - I just wanted to gather more information about what was going on in my own community. It was interesting (depressing?) to hear so many longtime professional artists still having to defend creating art as legitimate work that should be paid a fair wage. For those of you who do not know, public art jobs typically do not even come close to paying artists a living wage.
The topic of whether or not creating art SHOULD be a business is one that keeps cropping up and it never ceases to interest me. I guess the bottom line for me is that if we are not willing to pay decent prices for art, then we relegate the creation process to a hobby status. The message: earn your living some other way and do your art on "your own" time - as an amusement, an aside.
Since October is National Arts & Humanities Month, I would like to applaud the efforts of citizens who see art for what it is - vital to our spiritual, physical, and intellectual growth and well-being. Several years ago, The Bastrop Association for the Arts (in the county in which I live) saw the need for arts education in local elementary schools. The group not only made it happen after many years of work, but in the meantime, they sponsored the Art After School program. They made an impressive difference in the lives of many people and are still working to change the way the public views art.
When I taught clay sculpture to children in the Art After School program, my motto was, "You're the artist, you're the boss." I only helped the young sculptors with the technical ends of things. They got to choose which of their ideas to explore, when the work was complete, and how to title it. When parents came to pick up their children, they often expressed that this class was their children's favorite part of the day because they got to make decisions and work with their hands. They were never "wrong" in this class and enjoyed the stress-free sharing environment. It was empowering for them and raised self-esteem.
Now, you will never hear me say that the arts are more important than mathematics, science, and language/reading, but you will also never hear me say that creating music, poetry, painting, or sculpture is less important. Working in each of these subjects enhances abilities in the other areas of study. All of these areas are important to a healthy and whole mind. In teaching we learn that different minds learn in different ways and it is the job of the teacher to present the information in as many ways as possible to reach the students. Many people are tactile learners - they need to touch and do the work themselves in order to fully comprehend and absorb the lessons. And it helps if the work is a project of their own choosing.
Let's face it: the act of creating is an intellectual pursuit. Like mathematics, art is about exploring and determining relationships. There are many decisions to be made. Good artists are not just making "things"; they are reaching for something more. The act of creating not only involves a certain level of proficiency, but also demands the use of intelligent thought, physical coordination and often strength, and wonderful "problem solving." These learned abilities spill over into every other activity in life. Skilled labor + creativity + intelligence: these are characteristics that when seen should be embraced and when not seen should be encouraged.
In sum, the act of creating and the support of creativity in others and ourselves benefit all of us. So please do something creative or expressive this month to celebrate.
Although I have been exhibiting like crazy this year (which always makes me feel less productive), I have managed to get 2 new small bronzes out before my last two shows of the year. These are both wall-mounted sculptures and may be purchased with or without a stone base. Here is one, and the other is titled "Valentine" [a male nude torso in bronze and mounted on stone]. Both have been popular sellers [limited editions]:
[Shown here with stone base]
Edition of 381
12" h x 5.5" w x 1" d
A large version of "Ten" is available.
Size is 47" h x 19" w x 2.25" d and consists of the
bronze figure only.
Edition of 120
10" h x 6" w x 1.75" d