The Role of the Artist in Society

“Skills and attributes inherent in cultural industries can often prove to be of great value when applied to other areas of life…other sectors of society crave these kinds of resources and truly need the gifts that artists have to offer.”

-Steven France, Unlikely Bedfellows: Exploring Unique Performing Arts Collaborations

As potential partners with non-arts organizations, individual artists and arts and cultural organizations contribute skills such as creativity, abstract thinking, imagination, problem solving, an understanding of process and a reflective practice.

This skill set is being recognized, more and more, as a crucial element in non- profits, government, and in the private sector.

Through their work, artists interpret life around them and, like a mirror, reflect it back to society. When individuals or groups experience an art form they are often able to see themselves, those who are different from themselves, and the environment they live in more clearly. Artists help us to understand ourselves on a deeper level, where we come from, and where we are heading. Therefore, we may become more conscious about where we are going in the future and better able to prepare.

The artist’s role is also to challenge and provoke the society they live and work in; its norms and status quo. Artists and art have the potential to engage people, to stimulate dialogue in a non-threatening way. Artists also have a lot of natural curiosity and they tend to value, recognize and celebrate diversity. They highly value democracy, in which freedom of expression is entrenched in the law. Usually they have a high tolerance for the controversial.

Artists are like magicians. Through sharing their work they have the ability to transform ideas, relationships and certain life circumstances. A great example of this can be found in Canada and the US, in both urban and rural communities, where artists have revitalized neighbourhoods which were dilapidated, neglected, or devastated by loss of industry and jobs. Urban planners and community developers recognize that an influx of artists with their creativity, resourcefulness, adaptability, productivity and ability to create beauty can foster a sense of identity and pride, which in turn can transform communities and neighbourhoods, bringing them back to LIFE!

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