In Their Own Words: Artists and Community
Art by flickr user Swrobski
When interviewing artists and culture mavens for our Art Talk blog series, we often pose the question, "What do you think is the role of the artist in the community?" Below are a few of our favorite answers from a collection of incredible individuals.
Don and Mera Rubell, art collectors
"Artists are both the shaman and the mirror for society; a critic and a visionary. We cannot tell you how often artists have changed the way we perceive our world."
George Nock, painter, sculptor, and former NFL player
"The role of an artist is to reflect and record our existence past, present, and future by using the elements of our world to illustrate world experiences and possibilities in all styles of genre and media."
Sterlin Harjo, filmmaker
"Artists are the people you forget about first when you’re sailing along, and they are also the people that you turn to first when you’re in need. Communities need artists. Not everyone realizes that."
Arthur Huang, molecular biologist and conceptual visual artist
"Artists are great observers. They take notice of things that may otherwise go unseen. I think it is important for artists to thoughtfully process their observations and create works that allow the community to see what he or she sees. They bring to light a kernel of an idea that engages one or more of the five senses and allow the community at large to pick up that idea and expand upon it.
Lula Washington, dancer, choreographer, and founder of Lula Washington Dance Theatre
"The role of the artist in the community is to help society maintain its sanity. That is what art does. It helps society stay sane. It helps society heal. The role of the artist is to bring art into the community, to help people experience the arts, and to help them practice the arts in their community. The artist must provide opportunities for people at every level of society to experience the arts, to participate in the arts, and to help people create their own art.
Jane Marie Butler, Irish photographer who completed an artist residency in Washington, DC
"I see the role of the artist in the community is to create connectivity, to fully recognize that the arts have a central and distinctive contribution to stimulate public interest."
Gregory Pardlo, poet, translator, and NEA Literature Fellow
"The poet-as-artist should drive expression in a way that opens new possibilities for cultural feeling and the perception of our sensory experiences."
Samantha Crain, musician
"I think artists help in the continuing and inspiration of new ideas and perceptions. I also think, because art reflects culture and society, that artists provide a way of documenting life through the years."