Every artist wonders if his or her work really matters in the vast scheme of things. With a few billion people in the world, how can one person’s creative contribution make any real difference?
Quite simply, the answer is undoubtably yes! I know it’s a cliché, but art can change the world. Of course, not all art changes the world, and a lot of art changes it for the worse. But art has the potential to make a difference far beyond what you can imagine.
You should never say, “It’s just art.”
Are you just an architect? Ask Isidore and Anthemius when they laid down the blueprint of the great Hagia Sophia and said, “We think we can do this.”
Are you just a painter? Ask Michelangelo after he put the finishing touches on the Sistine Chapel.
Are you just a writer? Ask J.R.R. Tolkien after he wrote a little book that began, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
Are you just a musician? Ask the Beatles after they appeared on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964.
Are you just an actor? Ask Meryl Streep after receiving 19 Academy Award nominations (and 3 wins).
Are you just a dancer? Ask Michael Jackson after he performed the Moonwalk on Motown’s 25th anniversary television special in 1983.
Are you just a filmmaker? Ask George Lucas about May 1977 when he flew to Hawaii during the premiere of his new space movie because he was sure it was going to flop. It was a little film he called Star Wars.
It’s never “just art.”
In God’s economy, there are no “justs.” He gave you a specific set of creative gifts to use at this time and place in history. You’re one of a kind! If you don’t do what you do, it won’t get done.
So don’t think of yourself as “just an artist.” You’re so much more.
You’re a dreamer.
An unlocker of potential.
And a thousand other things.
But one thing you will never be is a “just.” And you will never make “just art.”
If you ever hear someone say, “It’s just art,” they are correct in one sense—it just has the power to change a life. It just has the potential to inspire a child who will one day do something extraordinary. It can just make grown men cry, give hope to the hopeless, and change a person’s entire perspective.
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “Having once found the intensity of art, nothing else that can happen in life can ever again seem as important as the creative process.”[i]
Art is much more than just art. Art has the power to change your life as the creator and also change the audience too. Every movie, every song, every poem, every innovation, every feat of engineering, every courageous voyage, and every leap forward for humanity was the result of the creative process.
For anyone who says "It’s just art," the fact is it has the power to change the course of history.
Questions for Reflection
1. Have you ever thought of yourself as “just an artist”?
2. Have you ever heard someone diminish the importance of the creative arts? How did that make you feel? How did you respond?
3. Do you believe you have the power to change people’s lives with your art? Why or why not?
4. How do you keep a balance between having big dreams and being realistic?
[i] Matthew J. Bruccoli, F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters (New York: Scriber, 1995), 256.