08/06/2013 05:14 EDT | Updated 10/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Why Isn't Art as Popular as Music?

It is strange that the value and importance of art is often questioned, perceived as frivolous and useless, when the same criteria for music is not similarly applied. Neither endeavour appears to serve any utilitarian concerns, and instead, explores self-expression, personal gratification, and cultural enrichment.

Perhaps art has become too elitist, or our society has not sufficiently promoted a basic understanding of art. The many benefits of art viewing and creation are not fully recognized. Music, on the other hand, is appreciated by all, from amateurs to experts. Everyone feels confident enough to have an opinion, purchase music, defend their choices, while devoting endless hours to listening to it and learning to play. Music is simply not questioned because the value is abundantly apparent: we enjoy it and it enriches our lives. Why would we want to live in a world without it?

Art has the same benefits, but has the added misconception that it is only accessible to experts who can decipher and understand every nuance. If people had to understand every aspect of music, from the technical breakdown of each instrument, composition, and rhythmic complexity, to the scrutiny of phrasing, lyrics, and so on, many music lovers would be excluded from appreciating their favourite songs. And so it should be with art: viewers with little to no exposure to art education can enjoy and respond to the work at the same time as experts and scholars who dig deeper into further layers of understanding.

Viewing and creating art is not only important for self-edification, but also to exercise and challenge parts of the brain that benefit from the development of imagination and creativity. A strong imagination is necessary to enrich all aspects of society, from scientific innovations to finding new ways to support and assist those in need. Creating art forces individuals to think in non-linear ways as they consider multiple solutions available in order to communicate and depict a concept. This type of thinking is crucially important to teach individuals to stop thinking in terms of "right" and "wrong," and rather, understand the varied solutions that can be used to approach problems. Often art utilizes a vague problem or concept as an initial inspiration, and some studies have shown that true creativity occurs when individuals are able to tackle these types of problems and "actively engage in problem identification and construction."

The human brain is continually able to adapt and change, and art creation may aid in building new connections within the mind that allow for further development. Additionally, creative people are often defined by their ability to take risk, which involves "a willingness not to censor one's thoughts, but to respond with, and to large numbers of ideas." All of these benefits are important for all individuals in every facet of society to develop and pursue in order to fully utilize the mind's potential, whether they pursue art as a career, or as a learning tool, or as a pastime.

There are also benefits for individuals who choose to simply view art, instead of creating it. They must use their imagination in order to formulate explanations for an artwork's meaning by deciphering symbols, considering composition, mood, and so forth. This process compels viewers to consider their own understandings, while gathering together new impressions, in order to create interpretations of the visual puzzle they are presented with. The exploration of one's imagination may actually exercise the same part of our brains that work on retaining past memories.

Art viewing and creation have extensive benefits that are far-reaching, allowing individuals to strengthen their abilities in all areas as they exercise their imaginations and creativity. Obviously not all individuals are able to pursue a career in art; however, art can be utilized and enjoyed by all, in the same way that we appreciate music. Art is not only able to give us visual satisfaction, but also challenges our understandings, forces us to imagine other possibilities, and strengthens our ability to formulate new ideas and fully utilizes our mind's capacity. These benefits are not only available to art experts, but to everyone and anyone who takes the first step to becoming a creative person and takes a risk: forgetting the fear of making a mistake and enjoying the journey of imagining, creating, and discussing your own impressions about art.

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