The importance of art

Art is cool. Most of us appreciate it in various forms, and can join in on conversations about how it’s contributed to human society and culture throughout history. Which is awesome. But it seems like a lot of us, particularly emerging adults who are juggling responsibilities with trying to figure out just where we are in the world, act like we don’t have a lot of time or energy for art in our everyday lives.

I’ve definitely been there. In the last year, it has been a struggle not only to be creative, but to even make time to take in other people’s creative works. We’re always busy, and if we’re not then we feel like we should be — or we’re so exhausted that we feel like we don’t have enough brainpower left to do much more than throw on a relaxing tv show.

This habit isn’t good for us. In the last few weeks, I’ve made a greater effort to do things like read things I want to read and to take in more poetry (a favorite medium). I’ve been lucky enough to listen to people play instruments and have conversations with friends about big life questions. And it has made such a significant difference in my well-being. Of course, it doesn’t magically make problems go away or make life easy. But it has made each day noticeably better.

Art has been shown to reduce stress and, in some cases, even help people dealing with various illnesses. There’s a reason we’ve been making it for thousands of years, and have devoted so much time and energy to preserving art over the ages. A quote I recently read by Thomas Merton says, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

But we have to allow it the time and space to do that for us. And if you’re into creating art in any form, the time to practice so what we make can do that for both us and others. Creating and enjoying art can take innumerable different forms — written, visual, musical, some combination of those, or maybe something else entirely. There are pieces of art (in my case, largely written) that have indelibly affected my life. Pieces that I’ve written have helped me process things I couldn’t address head-on.

It’s also worth noting that even if you think art is not your thing, you’re probably wrong. I have friends who are amazing visual artists and cannot hold a tune, know someone who is seriously not great at drawing but loves playing guitar, a friend who collects skateboard decks, and people who don’t create much art but can have incredibly thoughtful conversations about it. Art is art because of the way it affects us and what it means to us, plain and simple.

All this is just a reminder that even though we’re busy and figuring out what adulting looks like, it really is important for us to prioritize art — for us, and for each other.

If you’re looking for more ways to bring some art into your life, these are a few I really like:

  • The Slowdown – This is a podcast and radio show hosted by U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith that my dear friend Kami turned me onto. It’s 5 minutes, 5 days a week, and so worth it. Even if you aren’t a poetry person, it’s almost like a little meditation or break from the world you can dive into for just a few moments.
  • Netflix options – You can find happy with Bob Ross, check out one of their music documentaries, or a series like Abstract: The Art of Design.
  • Explore on streaming services – Spotify, Pandora, what have you. I love my playlists dearly (and might have one for y’all next week), but they get old if I never expand. Let the algorithm enlighten you.
  • Read, but only what you want to read – I’m a massive proponent of reading, but it’s going to feel like a drag if you read what you think you’re supposed to be reading. Read what you want — whether that’s comic books, biographies, YA, nonfiction, whatever. I promise it’s way more enjoyable.
  • Go see it in person – Plays, concerts, museums. You really can’t go wrong. I went to 4 concerts in 2018 and honestly lost count of how many museums. I have plans for a few live events soon. Even going to see a movie you’re excited about in theaters. Support the artists. Seriously.

What are some of your favorite ways to keep art in your life? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

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