The fixed notion of Community Art is elusive, and yet, community art has been around for centuries. Artists are intrinsically drawn to the world they live in, and for many that means not only viewing but participating in it. As I start my personal journey with Community Art, I intend to find out what exactly it means, how exactly it can be defined, so I can help spread this creative fervor and transform the general public into the creatively passionate.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Communities of Artists

So far I've been focusing mostly on communities creating art, which makes sense when trying to define Community Art. I've listened to musicians, read about museums, and researched as much as I can before I get distracted by my next big idea. But there is another important way that community art can be created; along with the idea of a communities creating art, there is the sister idea of artists creating communities.

This brings to mind, for me at least, a mental image of a grainy gray picture with a group of wealthy, white Europeans sitting around a tea table talking about the wide world. (Either that or scantily clad 60's hippies). While both can technically fall under this notion of a community of artists, I'm thinking on a broader, vaguer scale.

The first way I began to think about a community of artists, because of course there is always more than one way, was when I went to the MFA in Boston and saw an exhibit of the Rouen Cathedrals. In this room five original Monet paintings of the Rouen Cathedral face five Lichtenstein silkscreens inspired by those paintings. The dialogue created, not only between the paintings themselves but between the artists and their separate contexts, made me consider the fluid contemporary and historical community of artists.

Artists, like everyone else, do not live in a vacuum. They see things, read things, experience things, and this effects what they create. One of the most interesting parts of my collegiate level artistic education was when I realized that I was becoming a part, no matter how insignificant that part is, of the continuous community of artists that has existed as long as the human race.

Although artists are often thought of in the romantic light of a solitary genius, and indeed many fit that description, there is always a community of which them (we) can be a part. The solidarity of creative solitary-ness; the rich history which we come from and create. That is my first, grand scale, appropriately vague description of Community Art being a community of artists.

The second is much simpler and everyday. It is the interaction between fellow artists; the dialogue that takes place in a communal studio or in a classroom critique. Artists coming together to create a community and from that community creating better art pieces, inspiring each other, pushing each other forward. As any artist who has worked within a close-knit group knows, the frustration and agitation that come from working with a bunch of wired, creative, free-thinkers is balanced by the energy of creativity that flows around any such group.

A truly incredible experience is when the two separate definitions of Community Art (communities creating art and artists creating communities) crash together. Then we get the splendid debacle of Communities of Artists creating Art. While far from the ultimate or best definition of Community Art (because I doubt there is such a thing), this image definitely brings to mind the incredible realm of possibilities that open to us when people collaborate in creation.

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