State of the arts, Part 1: What is the role of the arts in our world?

Just what are the roles of the arts, and the artists, in our ever changing world?

The arts across all mediums play an influential role in our society and have done so across the centuries.  Art can shape the way we see the world, provoking new ideas and a fresh understanding of what is going on around us in regard to our socio-political climate.

On a personal level, through art we as the people feel a sense of belonging and this inspires reform and change.  Art provides us with an opportunity to feel comfort and discomfort all at once – encouraging each of us to have a voice.

What is the role of an artist in our society? How does art shape our social climate?  From where do artists draw hope and inspiration in our current climate? In Part 1 of this discourse, we asked half a dozen female-identifying Gold Coast artists these questions, in honour of International Women’s Day. And here are their responses. 


Hussy Hicks: Band

What is the role of the artist in our society?

I believe art is to add colour to life. To hold up a mirror to society and reflect on the human condition.  It prompts us to ask questions and approach things from different perspectives. Art invites us to stay connected with all the unknowns that make life the crazy, magical, scary experience that it is.  


Polly Armstrong: Creative Director Music Events / Photographer and Videographer 

How does art shape our social climate? 

Art is and always has been the benchmark and leader of social change.  As art is the form of human expression, art is everything we see and share; view and digest. Everything from protest songs, to protest placards to artists raising the most amount of money for bush fire victims as we have seen with the latest fires in Australia. It stretches to the memes, the films and images being shared on social media, it’s all been created by artists, thus bringing about awareness of social issues and shaping our social climate.   


Natasha Edwards: Co-Founder / Curator SWELL Sculpture Festival 

From where do you draw inspiration and hope in today’s climate?

We are mere humans in this incredulous sculptural landscape, it can be rather simple by ‘curating the everyday’. Inspiring an understanding of our environment through arts education will instil hope and creativity will evolve, referencing and respecting nature and its capacity to change as this is foremost in what shapes our understanding of the world. As changemakers we are constant witnesses to the results of our actions, rather than battling and feeding fear into change, we should learn the art in facing our fears, understanding them will enable us to become accepting, kinder and respected beings. As artists we have the gift to inspire hope and campaign law reforms that will shape our society into healthier, happier and stronger communities.


Melissa Spratt: Artist 

How does art shape our social climate?  

Art comes in many forms and can, at times, be divisive, but most importantly it brings people of different backgrounds together through shared experience. Over the years I’ve practiced as an emerging artist, teacher and gallery arts worker, I have noticed the one thing that stays constant and universal is our curiosity for the creative. This for me is what shapes our social climate. The curiosity to learn and do, to experience how an artist creates what they do and why they do it.

Of course, external factors play a role when it comes to an artist’s inspirations. Whether that be something environmental and political like climate change or something more inward like mental health and personal journeys. Inspiration and purpose to create can come from any and all directions and usually the act of creating shapes how an artist develops their next ideas. Because the concept of our social climate is embedded in the perception of self and those around us. The discovery of what might be unexpected and original is exciting and what every artist wants to achieve; to feel a part of something greater.


Rosie Dennis: Artistic Director / CEO – Bleached Arts and BLEACH* Festival

What is the role of the artist in our society? 

I think the role of an artist is to create work that engages in contemporary social issues in an unexpected way and in turn, provokes conversation, debate and dialogue. Work that gets us talking to each other, laughing with each other, empathising with each other. Work that reflects back to us images and stories that challenge stereotypes and show us a different perspective. Work that amplifies the voices we don’t hear from in the mainstream media, voices that celebrate, challenge and interrogate who we are as community. Work that brings us together, reminding us of our own humanity.


Ruth Della: Curator, Public Art and Outdoor Programming – HOTA Home of the Arts

How does art shape our social climate?  

There is nothing better than a lively conversation with art at the centre to bring people together! Art invites curiosity and consideration and shapes conversations that ultimately feed into a broader social ecology. Give us the strength to change the weather, almighty dragons of the four seas an installation by Jason Phu at HOTA until 15 March, exemplifies a community coming together to explore human connection and responsibility for change.

Our social environs are sharpened and honed through conversations stemming from art. Art can incite robust discussions or bring sensitive subjects to the fore with potency to transcend normalised barriers. Irrespective of whether an artist works in a socially or politically considered space or creates purely for aesthetic pleasure, an opportunity exists to heighten perceptions and connect people. I love that we all have the chance to see a world reflected through the eyes of an artist and the ability to interact with shifting perspectives rather than remain indifferent.


Rebecca Cunningham: Artist

From where do you draw hope and inspiration in our current climate?

I mainly draw inspiration from two places – nature and the people I’m surrounded by. As someone who has always loved observing nature, I spend a lot of time watching and noticing the changes, in the landscape and the seasons that are occurring in our local climate.

The other half of my inspiration is drawn from my peers, the conversations we are having, the actions being taken. I’m in awe of those who refuse to let the ignorance of those currently in power get in the way of these troubling times, they are out doing whatever they can to raise awareness and fight for the planet’s future. This inspires me to look closer at what is happening on all levels, teaches me a lot and also shapes the work that I create.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this piece in the next edition of Blank.

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