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Why Being an Artist Requires Reluctant Optimism

Updated: Aug 13, 2021

Right now, in any corner of the world there are countless atrocities taking place, challenging the will power of intuitive creatives bearing witness. People all over will say, in one way or another that we are living through the end times. Climate change, religious conflict, war, and the pandemic have all been sources of apocalyptic anxiety. Meanwhile artists continue to create art intended to exist well into the future. Trusting humanity to continue to connect and enjoy art is an optimistic place from which to create.

The act of creating art, in any medium under any circumstance, is at its core a hopeful act. Regardless of the content or creator, sharing something new with the world expresses a confidence that there will still be a world out there to receive it. Painters who start a new project can imagine this work to exist decades, maybe centuries into the future if correctly preserved. In the grand scheme of time that is no small feat. Lovers of antiquity can appreciate this quality as much as lovers of modernity. History and any artist retrospective can reveal the journey to prominence through preserved experiments saved for the future and shared with the world. Many artists have seen this strange period in history as an opportunity to use art as a sign of the times for their audiences and a preserved experiment saved for the future. In the future, this moment in art history will reveal significant insights about humanity and its response to adversity.

In the year and a half since the pandemic began, the need for fresh ideas that bring people together intellectually has been fulfilled by creatives. During the first half of 2021 the world experienced extreme hopeful highs and desperate lows, and creatives held hands with the public and carried us through with their future oriented practices. Artists allowing themselves at least the vulnerability to create freely amidst chaos and despair, then allowing others to experience feeling that vulnerability with them has allowed art to transcend the need for certainty. Artists acknowledge the uncertainty and walk alongside it rather than fighting it. Creating in the face of uncertainty is why artists must have a positive view of humanity to continue to connect with their audience.

Climate change, political upheaval and war all threaten art because art requires connection and vulnerability. This creative exposure is why any creator must be at least a reluctant optimist. Even the most edgy, angsty work is attempting to connect to others and share an emotional experience. In the age of extreme isolation and individualism the artistic practice challenges society’s hesitancy to be authentic. From learning new ways to document and share the creative process to virtual shows and discussions, the innovative creators have altered history as the world lived through it. Reminiscent of the atmosphere during World War II when the masterpieces from the Louvre were being whisked away before the Nazis took Paris, the sudden closure of art museums, music venues and creative communities everywhere around the world signaled the urgency of the need to safeguard both the creative process and the individuals that make it possible.

As the world is reemerging the arts have been top priority after the months of separation from the physical space. Just like an armistice after conflict can bring widespread jubilation, large shared artistic experiences following a year of collective loneliness will be a transcendent event for society. This innately human occurrence mirrors the profound nature of ceremonial practices in past societies.

The hope of humanity is in the future right now, and artists are tapping into that potential as they work. While the world will continue to change, artists will be at the forefront of aiding in understanding our shared human experience. If you love art continue to find ways to support the arts and artists who are still alive to enjoy the praise, and if you are a creator embrace the possibility of the future and continue to create. The best is always yet to come.

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