What’s Art For?

It can be a subtle thing–the dismissive attitude toward art. At a recent eye exam, the optometrist, noticing that I needed stronger glasses, asked what I did. There are several correct answers the the question; this time I said, “I’m an artist.” The doctor looked at me cooley, said, “Oh,” and then said, “So your husband supports you.”

It’s not an uncommon answer. I once had a dentist plead with me to “get a real job,” so he could finish all the work my teeth needed much faster. My answer is usually “when we dig up ancient civilizations, we don’t judge them by their paperwork, but by their arts.”

As a creativity coach, I often help artists struggle with identity, purpose in life, and self-worth. In a word that measures efficiency by ROI (return on investment), most of my clients’ concern is focused on social and natural-world capital. That makes them the “other” and feel alienated.

A few days ago, a Wise Woman sent me this video of artist Peter Donelly, who draws in the sand between tides. The incoming tides erases his art. He knows, as any artist does, that art is ephemeral, but that doesn’t make it less vital.

Spend the 10 minutes with this video and breathe more easily, knowing that Peter is doing art and that he doesn’t question if it is important. He knows it is.

Every artist knows, often deeply buried, that the act of creation is what makes us Divine. And it is that knowledge that can be threatening to those who question the purpose of creation. Who wouldn’t want to hold that knowledge, live that responsibility, treasure and nurture such a gift?

Quinn McDonald is an artist who writes.