Fostering Artistry

By definition, an artist is someone who creates. The creation comes from the inner vision of the artist. If the depth of the artist’s vision is significant, that which is revealed could be unlike anything that has existed before. The difference between this kind of creativity and that of an inventor is that art doesn’t need to have any purpose other than its own existence.

Fine art — painting, drawing, sculpting — and performing arts — dance, music and drama are not much valued in our society unless we speak of those things which are put before mass culture in a commercial manner. There’s nothing wrong with that. Andy Warhol certainly put any idea that “pop art” wasn’t valuable out to pasture. But some of what is out in the world to be bought and sold by large groups of people is just “merchandizing” of various kinds, sometimes disguised as creative work, and sometimes out there boldly just being itself.

Since we all see the world in our own manner, it makes sense that what appeals to one person will not necessarily appeal to another. This diversity is what makes the world go ’round. Each of us brings our own sensibility to what we enjoy and no one can arbitrate what art is or is not. That debate is doomed always.

It is possible, however, to be open to a wide range of expressions, experiences, ideas and activities and to participate in enjoying art with an open mind. Sometimes doing that makes for great surprises and true illumination.

I have gone to things that I thought I would hate only to find that I enjoyed them immensely, and have also been very disappointed in other things I had expected to enjoy. Not knowing how one will react is part of the fun. So, too, as a creative person, it is a challenge to bring oneself to the process of creating. No matter how hard we prepare no one ever knows exactly how a performance will go ahead of time. It can be exhilarating or devastating.

If a teacher is going to help a young person develop creativity, the process must begin by exploring creating something. This is best done in an atmosphere that is safe and supportive. Cruel criticism is hard enough for a seasoned, experienced artist to endure but it kills the spirit in a novice or in someone who is very sensitive. Developing creativity starts with questions and observation. What do you see? What do you hear? How does this feel to you? What do you want to convey?

Helping someone answer those questions allows the person to contemplate what, exactly, their vision might be, could be, should be. It directs them back into themselves. It reflects back what is being created so that it can be refined and polished. Even children have the capacity to create great art, since they do not have a jaded view of life. Uniqueness has no age limit.

If our society placed a bit more value on what was insightful, different, unusual, and challenging rather than on what is “hot”, what sells, what will make the most money, everything would be different. As long as only some artistic things are valued and the process of making something from nothing is not looked upon as something magical and special, everyone loses.

If singing teachers are to teach students to make music with their voices, then they must explore how music feels (emotionally), how it affects us (as physical reaction), how it moves us (by how we react to it) and what it might stimulate us to do or be. Teachers must ask questions before they make statements, they must explore with kindness before they condemn with harsh criticisms. They must listen and look before they decide they understand. And they must always appreciate the creative process even if the end product is not something they personally enjoy. To fail in this is to fail in teaching. It stifles rather than fosters artistry.

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