THE VALUE OF ART TO SOCIETY:
Trying to quantify the inherent value of the arts, is an impossible feat. Imagine a society without music, without movies, without museums and libraries. A world that lacks avenues of expression, is a world that is stagnant and sterile. The arts are essential and entwined in every aspect of our lives: whether it’s the pursuit of knowledge, the catharsis of emotional release, or the purpose of sharing an ambiguous commentary from which everyone can take away their own ending. It illuminates our daily lives, enriching our emotional world.
Think about the pockets of human creativity you take most comfort in. When you’re sad, what is the song that makes you feel less alone? When you’re listening to someone speak on screen or right in front of you, what are the words that make your heart race, send shivers down your spine? We are human, and our capacity for emotion is boundless. Even driven by technological advancement and urban development as we are, without the arts we would still be a very backward, savage species.
Art is used on different scales — individual, communal, and international. An artist can create something as both a reflection of self, and a reflection of the community they reside in. Today’s generation has begun a race towards progress, setting in motion many important and necessary conversations to incite change. We have moved on from just the fundamental understanding of art, from simply using it to make people laugh or tear. Art is now used for social commentary, for political statements; to inspire hope, to cement our national identity.
Art has always been a way of immortalising what is ephemeral — we paint flowers and forests so they never truly die, we write music and poems and hymns so that even when a beloved passes, our memories with them are locked in an eternal capsule, pockets of infinity. Art is our insurance against the passage of time, cementing our legacy, ensuring we aren’t forgotten or lost.
Theatre, one of the oldest forms of art, exists on many planes. Theatre is found in our every day, a multifaceted craft that has roots in many cultures worldwide. The beauty of theatre lies in how you’ll find that wherever you go, theatre is never the same. The origins of theatre can be traced back to the Greeks, who staged plays in honour of the god Dionysus; the Greeks were the ones who differentiated plays by three types: comedy, drama and satyr.
Aristotle argued that tragedies cleansed the heart, purging us of our petty concerns by showing that there can be nobility in suffering. Comedies were satirical stories geared towards mocking men in power for their vanity and foolishness. From this spun many genres and eras of drama, such as Commedia Dell’Arte, Talchum and the English Restoration period, as avenues for commoners to speak out about social injustices and constraints, to expose the debauchery, greed and ignorance of the upper class. However, theatre’s light and heavy creations have never discriminated in the way we humans tend to, serving everyone who interacts with it.
One of our most successful homegrown artists, JJ Lin, once contemplated the things that are most important to him. In an interview with Women’s Weekly, he said, “I would like to be relevant in this world, in my field. I think hard about how I can contribute more to society, to the music community, and to our Asian culture.” He went on to say that he finds it very meaningful when he can put a smile on someone’s face, whether it’s a fan, friend or family — to make someone happy is the biggest reward. Through sharing his music with us, he reminds himself of his roots while travelling the world, and his audience travels the world with him from the comfort of their own homes.
Art itself is an instrument for personal release and liberation; but for many the creations of others also express all the highs and lows they are unable to articulate, allowing them to feel less alone and grow one step closer to healing.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN ART AND OUR EMOTIONAL WELLBEING:
Art, in recent years, has been used for therapy as well. Music therapy, which has been rising in prominence, includes creating, singing to, moving to and/or listening to music. This provides outlets for communication for those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people’s motivation to become engaged in their treatment, and providing emotional support for clients and their families.
Art is also imperative to a child’s cognitive development, boosting memory skills and lessening the chance of developing memory loss illnesses in one’s later years. For an artist, thinking out of the box is second nature — the implementation of one’s imagination onto paper helps them to think conceptually and find multiple solutions for a singular problem. Painting, like other art forms, cultivates emotional growth and promotes stress relief, serving as a healthy outlet for those struggling with their mental health.
Art is woven into the very fabric of society, holding an intangible sort of value. Since the dawn of civilisation, we have relied on art to retell all the stories language could not record. The importance placed on artistic subjects has greatly diminished in the education system over the years. Yet, people still feverishly consume art, as seen by social media platform TikTok. TikTok, which almost seemed to explode overnight in these disorienting times controlled by the internet, has rewritten and revealed the frenzy with which we consume art forms such as dance, song and comedy.
We have to remember that the gift of creativity is something inextricable from human souls, and for as long as we thrive on this planet, art and us will always be firmly intertwined.
HERE ARE SOME ENDORSERS OF THE ARTS YOU CAN SUPPORT:
1. Tampines Arts Troupe
As an active promoter of Chinese dance, Tampines Arts Troupe has always staged creative, emotionally charged pieces that act as cultural outreaches to all audiences. They are committed to embracing diverse forms of dance, song and music, inspiring dialogue and connection.
2. New Opera Singapore
Through providing a platform for local performers both young and old to grow in talent and experience, they aim to introduce local audiences to the world of opera. They are reshaping the face of opera in Singapore through new and quality productions, nurturing and developing a new generation of talent.
“What art is, in reality, is this missing link, not the links which exist. It’s not what you see that is art; art is the gap.”
— Marcel Duchamp