I recently spent an afternoon wandering around the largest, free outdoor art festival in the U.S.A. Artscape is held every year in Baltimore City and entire streets are packed with artists displaying their work as well, live music and many other activities. Later that evening I went to one of my local restaurants and began talking to the owner and a couple of other folks who said they had also spent the afternoon at the festival. They mentioned how disappointed they were at what was on display and since they were both artists “trained” in art school they were appalled at how people could claim their work was art.
While I admit there was lots of stuff on display at the festival that didn’t grab my attention or inspire me, there was never a moment when I thought to myself that what the maker was displaying was not art. In fact, as evidenced by the number of people that paused to take a closer look, there were many occasions when what I passed up as not very interesting was clearly very interesting to them.
As the evening wore on and after the folks I was talking to had left I began to wonder what higher being does attending art school make a person? Does art school really teach students how to decide what is art? I have always dreamed of pursuing an education in art in the belief that I would learn how to free up my thoughts and feelings and express my vision in the work that I produce. However, if in doing so I had to allow myself to be brainwashed into believing that some things can be discarded because they do not pass the “art” test then I am much happier being the uneducated artist that I already am. I wouldn’t have much need for a text book that tells me what art is, I would much rather have a text book that taught me how to appreciate art in it’s many forms, understand it’s meaning and critique it accordingly.
In summary, while I think we can decide whether or not we like what we see, I do not think we can decide whether or not what we see is art. If the maker says it is art, then it is art. This is absolutely what I enjoy about art. It is relative.