Why Art is Essential to Democracy
|📌Published:||28 March 2021|
The Arts are a gateway to democratic discussion. Now, more than ever we need its passage to discuss differing opinions in a new manner. We must learn to bring our country back together and acknowledge our strength as a community. With our lacking appreciation of both democracy and artistry, we miss that the two go hand in hand. While art can carry bias, we need to reconnect with our arts to restart civil political discussion because revisions within society begin with revision in the arts, artistry creates connectivity, and art speaks for us when we cant.
Our traditions, while necessary, can also be adapted. In order to develop our country into a new way of functioning, we must apply this mantra to our fine arts, “Respect it and revive it.” What we see in both the media and art reflects who we are as a community. When you turn on the television to watch ballroom dancing, typically what you'll see is a straight white couple, one where the man is taller and stronger then the women. When we think of the theater, we see the wealthiest of people sitting in grand balcony seats. When we think of art we need to no longer see only a small representation of our population. Like in Oksar Eustis’ TedTalk about Theater in Democracy, our access to theater needs not to be only a small percentage. It needs to be inclusive and weld us as a society. Originally, theater was developed in order to bring discussion to the stage. No longer was it one man spouting his views at you, but a whole group of regular people having a discussion. We learned to view things from another person's mindset and learn to have a civil, political discussion. Take something like what Trevor Copp and Jeff Fox did, perform two men dancing ballroom together. While they saw it as choreography, the people saw it as entirely political. Without noticing it our brains are hardwired into social constructs. Theater is only for the rich, ballroom dancing is only for straight couples, etc. With the arts being such a strong representation of our society, what if we began to change the narrative. What if we introduced same sex partnered dancing, and bringing theater to all types of people. Art is no longer something we see strictly in a museum, but accessible for everyone. Create political cartoons like Rayma Suprani even if not everyone is going to agree with them. The important part is getting people thinking again. Artists must learn how to evoke change and start a discussion, all the while bringing us together as a community.
Theater, dance, poetry, painting, all these things inspire our overview. Productions like Normal Heart by Larry Kramer changed our entire perspective on aids and the gay community. From this performance, people began to treat victims of aids as people once again. The power of theater stemming its way through generations to come. As Oskar Eustis’ stresses, “Our need for theater is as powerful as food or drink.” By nature humans are drawn to artistry. From hieroglyphic artistry or mosaics in churches, art has been with us for centuries. Therefore those artists hold power within what they create. While not strictly pointing out where people's opinions should lie, the true message is stuck within the fine lines. Take the power of political cartoons. They act as a barometer of our freedom. When we look at a political cartoon, our initial response is either I like it or I don't. The artist, while not strictly stating messages, creates discussion between the viewers. Some so far as to bring riots against unjust treatment in monarchies. Suprani for example incited so much hatred from the Venezuala government that they fired her from her position as the political cartoonist in the newspaper. While nothing she said was untrue, her art began a discussion of mistreatment, which dictators don't take kindly to. “Political cartoons open the door for criticism and discussion against the government.” (Rayma Suprani) Here in America our first amendment rights allow us to have this conversation. Therefore create more art, create more political cartoons. Introducing new ideas into the arts allows us to incite change. While dancing same sex at a ballroom preformance doesnt change the laws about gay marriage, it changes the way we percieve it. In order to create this change in the higher rungs, we must first normalize it in the mainstream media. Representation for all people in the arts, no longer allow a large portion of the population go without something so powerful it's bred within human nature.
As preached by Oskar Eutis “Truth comes from the collision of different ideas.” Our country is built on just that. We're a state governed by the people and what’s more representative of the people then our media. When the people can't speak, the media speaks for us. Bringing forward the problems of the people. Art is even more illustrative of that. Mirrored during the Aids crisis was a show painting those diagnosed as people unlike they had been. Political cartoons directly mirror that of our political atmosphere. Dance while stemming from centuries ago evolves with us. Being a dancer myself the politics within the dance community itself are changing everyday. Experts in their field, like Rayma Suprani and confirming these beliefs everyday. As Americans democracy is engrained with our country alongside theater works and paintings. If we were to analyze the art from when the country was first created it would be reflective of the environment. Now we need to elevate the arts to match our current climate and in turn expresses the changes that need to be made through the same source. While artists cannot change the opinion of their viewers, they have the tools to change their perspective. The power to remake our society and reimagine our culture comes from such. Throughout generations our activism relies with our artists and our liberal thinkers. Our creators and our influencers. Art speaks for us when we no longer have a voice. It is our turn to give the voice back to the art.
Clearly there is a relationship between the conversations held within the arts and that of conversations within democracy. While the theater may not directly impact laws or rights, it creates the podium to do so. To open up this stand for all kinds of people to speak, we must first translate inclusivity to the arts. From there we use the importance of these forms to guide us through these discussions. Using these we can connect back to our democracy and revive democratic thinking.