Maybe A Rose by Any Other Name . . . but Art Now Has to be Called by Scientific Terms to Regain Respect

Terry Bailey, Kaleidoscope III 1B, 2005
Terry Bailey, Kaleidoscope III 1B, 2005

I’m currently helping the cities of Glendale and Burbank to write a grant that will establish training in WEB and mobile technologies for entertainment studio workers who are being laid off, and for others who are long-term unemployed and being replaced by foreign workers on H1 Visas. There is more to it than this, but at its core: designers will learn coding, and coders will learn design. Well, I feel great about this. BUT.

I keep running into the new evolved world of Art Absence and Prejudice.

This Art Absence and Prejudices World exists because we have taken art out of the schools, and thus few are learning art skills any longer or appreciating their value. And we took Art out of the schools because so few people value the Arts in the United States. It’s a chicken and egg kinda thing.

And now our world, especially our business world, is facing the inability to innovate or run smoothly, because of a dearth of creative thinkers.

And so, we are inventing terms like Creative Thinking, and teaching classes in it at distinguished places, like Stanford (see my previous post), and the new name and locales of instruction are giving the subject credibility. And, HELLO WORLD! What they are really teaching and talking about – is ART!

Creative Thinking is what you learn when you study the Arts – Visual Arts, Music, Writing, etc. etc.

So, we are calling it Design Thinking, and suddenly it is okay, serious, respectable. But to us artists, it is still ART.

During my grant research I interviewed a man who was all excited that I had taken the Design Thinking course at Stanford. He went on and on telling me how that is the way of the future, how more and more businesses are incorporating the teaching and learning of Design Thinking in their staff development plans.

Did he even hear me when I told him that the Design Thinking course was more of an anthropologic interest to me than anything else; that I had  spent my life studying art, and that the Design Thinking course just touched on a few of the topics and methods that a professional artist learns and knows?

We have an absence of Creative Thinkers, not because we have not been teaching Design Thinking, but because we have taken the Arts out of the schools.

Another example of Art Absence and Prejudices: the subset in art of Graphic Design. It is what artists have been doing in the commercial world for generations: creating art that sells things, that explains things, that illustrates points of view. Fine Art, on the other hand is considered art that expresses the Artist’s point of view, visual representation of something, feelings, etc. – a personal art. Most of us Fine Artists earn our living as Graphic Artists, because it pays better, quite frankly.

But in our society few people respect Artists, or Graphic Designers – they are all too arty. People think artists and designers are just “born” with a talent to make art and design. Some don’t even know what a graphic designer is –  they think that products, magazine layouts, packaging and medical illustrations in textbooks just create / design  themselves, I guess.

Now they are calling graphic art “Data Visualization.” In order to give credibility to the work of Designers / Artists. And, of course, we are calling them Designers, not Artists. Because Designer sounds more scientific, less arty, too.

You want more creative / innovative thinkers on your future accounting and engineering and scientific and business teams? Call your school district and legislators and tell them to put the ARTS back into schools!