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Is art innefectual in promoting acceptance of diversity? Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Pleso, Australia Aug 12, 2006
Culture , Education , Citizen Journalism   Opinions


Much art seeks to stir the mind of its audience into considering new angles, to adopt alternative positions to those in which they previously stood, to observe further possibilities. Much of this art achieves its objectives. However, just who is this audience and how likely are the individuals who constitute it to maintain fixed or narrow viewpoints anyway? Is the majority of art in effect preaching to the converted?

Conceivably, many regular and critical viewers of art are people whose views are already fluid and informed. Generally speaking, art needs to be sought out to be seen at all. To take the time to ponder the messages that the art wishes to impart requires significant motivation for exploration and understanding in addition to the desire to seek it out in the first place. While there is validity in allowing those people whom already posses what is commonly termed ‘an open mind’ to exercise this feature further through interaction with art there is arguably little risk of these individuals contributing the pool of prejudice and hatred that so constricts our world with or without access to art which reinforces their already present acceptance of difference.

So what of those people whose minds are ‘closed’; whose values are exclusionary and who have anyone or anything ‘different’ from themselves firmly locked in the crosshairs of their contempt? Given that most art must be sort out and there is, little likelihood of these individuals doing this (such art is itself a target of derision) let alone the additional exploration required to understand the message and at times fundamental shifts required to accept the contrary paradigm it presents. If art has the potential power to act as a catalyst for expanding the horizons of the prejudiced it does so only if the space (physical and ideological) that divides it from its target group is somehow bridged. Without adopting some of the very characteristics it wishes to provide alternatives to and aggressively imposing itself on those who would ordinarily avoid or be unaware of it there is slim chance for the divide to be crossed and any opportunity for change to exist.

Even in situations wherein people are exposed to art without choice, such as in school, it is still very often only those who are already open minded who realise/accept these messages from art (at least that has been the experience of the author, a teacher). Yes, at times in an educational setting the bridge is crossed but what of those who do not make this transition in a formal environment and can after leaving henceforth avoid contact with art that provides views counterpoint to their own?

The volume of art is vast and most of it is easily accessible via one mass medium of communication or another. Most people however would select from this smorgasbord that which they like best, are familiar with, or feel reflects their own values, attitudes and beliefs. A perfectly understandable selection. Just as those from the ‘open mind’ camp would avoid the ‘propaganda’ of the ‘closed mind’ camp the reverse is also true.

Is art, then, largely ineffectual in achieving its goals to promote acceptance of diversity?

What are your thoughts on the issues outlined in the above article?



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clarita zarate | Oct 5th, 2006
Very good question! You really made me think. I am not sure I can come up with an answer right now. For me art has been more than a friend. It has taught me to love and to care. Because, without others, there would be no art. Unfortunately society has put restrictions on personal creative expression. Everyone has creative ability but not all believe they do. I suppose if we lived in a world that was designed so there was no need to use our legs, we might not realize we could walk. Then some day, if we saw a man walking, we might think he was a superior being . We possibly would admire him and want to be like him. We might say he was 'gifted'. I think that some of the greatest art teachers are the ones who make you feel loved. Motivation is more likely to come about through shared enjoyment.

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