I was brought up in a nine square house with my parents and four siblings in Melbourne’s West. Creativity was the only constant in my childhood that neither discriminated nor limited. For thirty years, art has kept me alive.
Melbourne, the most livable city in the world that is both rich in arts and culture, could not save me from the societal expectations all adults face. Though my therapy was art, I focused on reaching the status everyone, especially from the West, craves.
To keep sane I visited exhibitions, read philosophy and literature, and spent my lunchtimes at the National Gallery of Victoria shop.It is a reassuring testament to the invaluable market: 19/20 Australians engage with the arts, and 85% find it ‘rich and meaningful’, according to the Australian Council’s 2014 report.
The arts environment has its benefits.
Professor Semir Zeki, a neurobiologist at the University College London, discovered that simply the act of viewing art gives pleasure, much like falling in love. A Berkley study shows that when art inspires a feeling of awe, it creates a lower level of particular chemicals in the brain which correlates with lower levels of depression and are also necessary to heal trauma and physical conditions.
A study of more than 10,000 students finds that a one-hour trip to an art museum changed the way they thought and felt. The data shows the field trip increased the students’ critical thinking skills and their empathy and tolerance toward people.
Almost a quarter of Australians create, share or sell art on the Internet. More than half of our population use the internet to watch or download art. Nearly half use the internet to research, engage with or follow artists and arts organisations.
The role of the arts is becoming increasingly paramount to the population’s survival.
When I went to seek answers at the NGV shop three years ago, I carried a newfound hope. I traveled one hour by train and 15 minutes on foot, feeling inspired and sensitive to everything my eyes could spot. Once inside the shop, the magic returned and I was curious again.
I had just returned home from living abroad, recovering from a breakdown. Nothing seemed to make sense any more. And I wanted to be the purest form of myself and heal. After wandering around the store, enjoying all the visual delights, I raided the bookshelves. I could feel my strength, regaining.
I stumbled across a big blue-ish book, called Art As Therapy. I saw it was written by Alain de Botton, and my curiousity grew.
“Art holds out the promise of inner wholeness”, de Botton wrote. Once I read this line, I realised, art as conversation could be used for everyone, not just for myself.
Over the next 12 months, I met artists, art-lovers and cultural innovators who taught me the importance of art as a communication tool. Many of them had been wanting to resolve the issue of fragmentation, but not knowing how. It was an enriching experience to be invited into each of their worlds. It was just as enriching to figure out a way to help.
For me, the arts are a practical life tool. They are sometimes inaccessible, more often disregarded, but essential. They have the ability to express an artist’s inner voice to affect the inner voices of many. The arts are a singular, universal language.
Singer and songwriter Bob Dylan believes the right creative environment allows him to welcome and accept his unconscious, inner workings: “The environment has to bring something out in me that wants to be brought out. It’s a contemplative, reflective thing… Environment is very important.”
That is how we all work.
Artist Karen Finley once described art as a mirror of society. Zineb Sedira explained the power of art: “Art can make you escape, make political and personal statements, think, raise awareness, question the world, tell stories, record memories and keep them alive, challenge ideas and the world. See the world poetically. See the world as you wish”
Although I’m not experienced in all of the arts genres, I believe they all hold the same potential. To bring about inner wholeness.
I hope for people to enjoy genres of literature, art, music, performance and philosophy and find all of these things can be interrelated… and awesome!
July 2017: Big Apple campaign
Today, the arts as a whole struggle to show its relevance in understandable ways, to the widest possible audience. Constant, historical or stylistic affairs with which platforms, literature and museums are traditionally associated, dominate. But we can change that.
On July 1, through the Australian Cultural Fund, our goal is to work with Parsons School of Design in New York, and build the digital platform that will bring about a cultural change in the arts.
You can help change our creative environment by telling us what the arts mean to you.
Tell us your story at platasso.com/big-apple/.
To find out a little more about Platasso, please read this.