The arts include many forms of creative expression, storytelling and cultural participation. They cultivate distinct social, cultural and individual identities while transmitting values, impressions, judgements, ideas, visions and spiritual meanings across time and space. The visual arts (painting, sculpture, and architecture) are often considered to be the core of art, but in reality there is a much wider range of practices which could be defined as art. These include music, theatre, film and literature, amongst others.
A broad view of what constitutes art focuses on the fundamental human instinct for balance, harmony and rhythm and a sense of an aspect of humanity beyond utility. It can also be seen as a means of experiencing the mysterious and the unknown, which is perhaps a more humane version of the scientific concept of beauty.
As a medium for creative expression, art can communicate ideas and emotions that words cannot. It is therefore useful as a tool for understanding other cultures and their ways of being, both past and present. It can bridge the gap between the humanities and the sciences, as it demonstrates that we have a common humanity, regardless of our differences in race, religion or culture.
For those who enjoy studying visual art, the study of art history is an important part of the curriculum. It enables students to explore how a work of art was made, by looking at the techniques used and how they have changed over the years. In addition, the study of art history allows students to understand what was happening in a society at the time a particular piece of art was created.
One of the most popular questions asked by people who are new to studying art is “What makes something a work of art?” Many students automatically think that it is about the visual impact of a piece, but there is much more to consider. For example, a painting may be dominated by the use of line and shape relationships or by color, while a sculpture may be primarily influenced by the use of material and illusionistic mass or volume.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the term ‘art’ was used to mean any skillfully executed work, including craft, applied, and decorative arts, and art historians focused primarily on analyzing its aesthetic qualities. Then, in the 19th century, art was separated out into what we now call the fine arts.
It is now generally accepted that a work of art should be judged by its ability to capture the spirit and ideas of a particular period of history. A good work of art should be able to convey a message, be it one of politics or morality, about its time and place. It should also be able to stand the test of time and remain relevant in its subject matter, style and technique. If a work of art fails in this regard, it is not truly artistic and has little or no value.