Debra Gudema of Boca Raton, FL, is a nonprofit consultant and writer with an avid interest in art history and classical music. As a regular visitor to local art galleries and the Boca Raton Museum of Art, she has come to appreciate how the history of art is also a representation of our many different cultures.
Why is art important to culture?
Regional cultures embody local customs, arts, and social institutions and groups. The achievements of a particular nation or people are often expressed in that area’s art history. From architecture to paintings and carvings and handcraft, art is the essence of the people being represented. And it is the art that can bridge the gap between different nations.
Take, for example, the Statue of Liberty. It was gifted to the United States to commemorate France’s alliance with our country. The works of creative arts show an even better representation of a culture. Theatrical, cinema, music, and literature are art forms that tell the story of our human condition.
Debra Gudema believes that secondary schools should include art history within their curriculums. This is the best way for students to learn about different places and different people – without becoming disengaged.
Unique skills of art historians
One way to view the importance of art history, according to Debra Gudema, is to look at the unique skill sets of art historians. First, they must have an in-depth knowledge of all forms of art (and even more so within their field of specialty), art periods, and historically-relevant artists.
Next, their eyes and brains must be trained to think critically. Mastery of critical thinking and making accurate visual arguments is needed to identify one artist’s work among many and to know when they are looking at a counterfeit. An art historian must also be able to trace how art has changed throughout history, including artistic styles and eras.
And finally, the art historian must be able to articulate their opinion while also supporting it with relevant facts and examples.
Art history is not just about the theory of art within different time periods; it is also an exploration of the philosophy of the times – and culturally, what was considered aesthetically pleasing.
Art history explains our human past
Without the historical study of art, many ancient artifacts found today would carry no meaning. But, within the context of art history, a pottery bowl removed from a dig site can accurately be linked to a specific culture. From here, we have greater insight into that area’s social, economic, and environmental conditions.
The evolution of people can be seen in the art from their past. For example, many countries embody certain artistic symbolism, colors, and materials. Debra Gudema believes that by studying these artifacts, modern society will benefit from different perspectives and maybe even discount former and sometimes erroneous theories about a population’s history.
Our lives today are enriched when we look at art from the past. We gain knowledge and creative inspiration when we view how art has evolved throughout the centuries.