we scout wednesday :: is art a luxury?

ceramic cups by cinderelish

lots of great discussion here (and here, and here) over the last couple of weeks. and that’s led me to the question:

is art a luxury?

is it something you can’t live without or something you skimp on in hard times? what do you think?

here’s how we scout wednesdays work: write your own answer on your blog (or twitter, or facebook… anywhere you can answer the question) and link back to scoutie girl. then come back to this post and live a to your answer in the mister linky below! voila!

looking forward to reading your answers!

28 thoughts on “we scout wednesday :: is art a luxury?

  1. What a great discussion point – so relevant for today’s economy. My tweet was “Art is as essential to life as breathing. Quality of experience goes up when handmade objects enter your space…even one!”

    The other night when my husband and I went to the local eatery, I used my Paypal debit card to pay and I thought – I just traded one of my tiles for this meal – since I had just sold one of my tiles on etsy that was the price of the meal, and they paid through Paypal. I’ve begun to look at the value of my work in real art = money sense, which has added a dimension of appreciation for it these days, and I’ve found that’s not at all a negative. That, of course, has lead me to appreciate the customers who trade their cash for my handmade product. This currency equivalence never really had such an importance to me as it has in the last year. As the economy gets tighter people think harder about where they want to spend their money, and I’m finding that customers are responding with more enthusiasm than they have in the past – letting me know what a difference my art has made to their living space.
    SO – maybe the downturn has had a positive influence…just a little sunshine in a darkish day.

    1. hey linda!

      i think in those exact terms too! when we get a “quick” meal out, i think, “well, there’s an ebook sale!” my new computer was equivalent to several web projects. i think when you consider the time you put into pay for certain things, it’s easier to spend more to pay for other people’s time – it’s a win win!

    1. hey liz! that’s exactly what i mean though: is art something that you have to have – or is it something that you treat like a luxury? how does that affect your shopping habits and budgeting? do you look for art that also serves a purpose?

      lol – i guess i had more than one question!

  2. I guess that whether art is a luxury or not depends on the individual buying it- hmmm I wrote a post about it on my blog as so many artists have been asking the same question lately.

  3. Oh, you really pick the issues, don’t you?! This one is really close to my heart, mind and efforts! So, just a quick string of thoughts. 😉

    I am not sure if that is a right question. I think you might want ask: Is buying art a luxury? Because by definition anything can be art, it just depends how much time, effort and talent is invested in it. Anything that you do can be art, even your blogging is an art if you invest yourself in it! Your success will prove it. :)

    On the other hand, buying art and owning pieces by others is a luxury in todays world. But it doesn’t have to be, and any art student will tell you that. There are art exchanges, or barters: you put in your pieces, you get what other people have made. There is always a way to enrich yourself with art.

    Yes, the artists need to eat too, they do deserve to be paid, and paid for their effort. But in todays consumerist culture we are taught from the youngest age to use and throw away the leftovers. By that standard there is very little room for every day art. Because how would you do that to something somebody “slaved” over for hours, used the best materials they could find and made sure you personally are really happy with it?

    I think that the question of art and handmade product should be tied to the questioning how we use the everyday things. And is it worth to us to have this planet for a little longer? Seems like a no brainer to me, but it is hard to shed bad habits…

    1. hi adaleta! i know i didn’t ask the right question! there are so many ways to ask it, as you pointed out. i think asking the “wrong” question though might expose the multiple ways of thinking of art – and perhaps lead to an even touchier conversation of the idea of art vs. craft – which you hinted at in your last paragraph.

      thanks for your insightful comment!

  4. It’s still very hard and questionable to define what art is, in first place :)

    But, yes, in it’s most common definition it is luxury – and just because it’s primarily intention is express someones emotions, state of mind, etc, and secondary, possibly to please (or disturb) and awaken the senses and emotions in others (the “consumers” of art) – (a “message” or opinion or statement in it is not mandatory, although often incorporated and present). Basically, it has no other purpose (in theory). It’s a surplus human activity.
    Yet it’s vital, inevitable and indispensable for human progress. I consider it the salt of humanity. Thus, not a luxury.

    Kind of contradictory, isn’t it? :) Well, aestheticians struggle a lot with this.

    1. hi daria! yes, very contradictory! i think i was hoping to open up a discussion on just the very topic you discussed: is art by definition extraneous or inherent to our humanity? and for either answer: how does that affect our purchasing of “craft,” as defined by being useful or practical art?

      oy vey….

      thanks for the great comment!

  5. Tara,
    I should have said more in my comment – this is an excellent, though sometimes frustrating question! I think we all need to learn to see past the intellectual and go with the gut, if it feels like art it is. And that art may be the mug I drink from or the print I gaze at while drinking from it. THANK YOU for asking such a provocative question!!!

  6. There are so many things in life that are not a necessity but heck our lives would be so much less without them: music, theatre, museums, art galleries, fresh flowers, lovely jewellery, the list is endless.

    Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.

    Pablo Picasso

    So true Pablo, so true!

  7. I agree with Jane, there are so many things in life that are not a necessity but make life wonderful.

    Your question also got me to thinking about the other non-art/non-craft things in my life. Is a cell phone technically a luxury? Is a car? Is a fashionable piece of clothing a luxury as opposed to purely utilitarian t-shirt and pants? When it comes down to it, I think most of the things in my life are technically luxuries, even down to the organic produce (if I were starving and had no money, sorry, would not buy organic).

    The other thought that your blog posts have made me think about is that people selling their own stuff are probably going to buy other peoples stuff. That’s what I am finding as I am contemplating selling online. I suddenly became aware of how my purchases directly affect other peoples lives, and have started purchasing art like I never have before. So, in my opinion, one way to increase the purchasing of handmade art/craft items, is to increase the number of people selling them. This was not intuitive to me at first, and I have to admit that looking at a marketplace of so many talented creators online is intimidating, but when I realize that each new seller that appears is also probably going to be a new buyer, and not just a new buyer, but a passionate buyer and spokesperson for this movement, it actually makes me thrilled that there are already so many people plugged into selling their creations online.

    Alright, sorry I digressed, you are just sparking a lot of thoughts with your posts, Tara! :)


  8. Just a quick addition to Kirsten’s post:
    So true about selling and buying more when you are engaged yourself and understand the relationships people have to their items. What I had in mind is making more. I’ve met so many people who say they have no creativity or artistic skill, and I just don’t buy it. Everybody is creative, each in their own way, and I think it is crucial to teach that to kids. It is another way we communicate, some people are better with words, some with numbers, others with yarn, you name it youself! It is time and effort that measure the art, as old Chinaese (sic!) would say. But historically that is not far from our western culture: ancient Greeks emphasized art as an integral part of education. So where have we lost that?
    Here’s to hoping that we are entering the Renessaince of handmade, rebirth of art.

  9. I have a link up there to my (short) response on my blog, but I wanted to second what Jane and Kirsten said above: All the really good stuff in life is a luxury. And my idea of luxury isn’t the same as yours or anyone else’s. My luxuries can be going to an awesome concert and buying art and yours can be taking a road trip and eating fancy cupcakes. :)

    I think the problem with defining these things as luxuries gives them an aura of guilt, like we shouldn’t need them and we should live in some grim austere world. But I don’t see why that has to be the case – it seems like a pretty universal need to me.

    Anyway, that’s what I thought of when I read the question, and I admit I didn’t sit down and do a bunch of research :)

  10. Thanks so much for this question Tara and for the great comments above. It’s really got me thinking…… I have answered with my immediate thoughts on my Facebook fan page, but I am sure as the day goes on and I ponder this question more I will have more to add and more questions to ask myself. Just what my brain needs right now, I love these sorts of questions that just roll on and on.

  11. Tara, what a great topic. This one really has me thinking. My gut instinct was to say it is a luxury since we don’t need it to actually survive. If we take your question literally then what we need to survive is food and water.

    However, at the same token who can imagine a life without art. I know that’s not a world I would want to live in. Just the other day, I was at work a little stressed out and I took a sip from a handmade mug that I received as a Christmas present. Not only did I look at it and relish in its beauty, but just then I noticed the care and attention to detail that was placed in creating this mug. The potter flattened the spot where you would place your thumb as you are holding your mug making this mug an ergonomic one.

    For that brief moment it took me away from the stresses of everyday life and I smiled. So I guess my answer would be although I wouldn’t die, I think of art as a necessity for a happy life. :) Off to ponder this some more.

  12. Really awesome question, totally got me thinking. Art isn’t a home, food, or clothing, so it is not a hard and fast necessity – but what is existence if only those things? People sem to have an innate need for something more, to create and find beauty in this world. So this definitely isn’t an easy question, but one I much appreciated. Made sure to talk about it on my blog :)

  13. we must have art, if we are a civilized culture.
    i’ve recently read (I think it’s by the guy who invented google) that the our way teaching in our current school systems is based on an out dated belief that we are preparing them for the “factories”. this system is changing, and art(creative thinking) will be much more prevalent and valued, in the future.

    so one for the good guys, and such a positive for any of the kids heading to art school(my kid included)

  14. From my vantage, yes art is a luxury, but it is a luxury that everyone can affordably enjoy.

    (And Tara, could you delete number 16. I did the linky wrong. 17 is correct. Sorry. Also, let me know if I didn’t link my blog correctly to yours. I’m new to this)

  15. Depending on where a person is in life, art could be a luxury. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to appreciate art without paying out the wazoo. I included a couple opportunities that localities have provided for citizens and visitors to enjoy creativity.


  16. This question really made me happy, made me realize all of the things I take for granted, and gave me something more meaningful to blog about than the standard “look what I did” or “check out the feature.”

    Plus, it gave my “mommy brain” something exciting to ponder… other than the usual toddler curiosities.

    Now I get to check out all the other interpretations of ART and LUXURY, yay! Thanks Tara!

  17. I definitely don’t think art is a luxury unless we include, as Kristin says above, cell phones, cars ,etc in the “luxury” category. We would be left with only our biological needs. I think people are creative and artistic even if they can’t or don’t want to exchange money for a “work of art”. If a person can’t go to a concert or even buy a CD, she can sing! I just traded a work of mine for the work of an artist I admire. I guess my definition of art is pretty wide, but it’s the difference between living and just existing. Unless we’re in a dire situation where survival is all we can do (and I know this unfortunately is the situation for some people) then I think most people choose to live and be creative.

  18. “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
    Howard Thurman

    This quote hangs in my studio. Art makes me come alive so I don’t consider it a luxury. I’d have big doctor bills without it!

  19. Oh Heck No!!

    Is going for your daily jog or taking 5 with your favorite relaxing beverage a luxury?

    “It’s all in the mind you know”…George Harrison

    While “luxury” generally pertains to unnecessary things in our life, I will dissagree.
    Neither I nor my family NEED me to have that designer bag. So if for vanity’s sake one must have art, then let the vanity go and focus on needs.

    But, when something helps us relax or “expands” our mind, then it is a useful tool to keep us in an emotionall balanced and healthy state. yes? (score 1 for art)

    True, I won’t die of you take away my favorite pillow. Nor will I die if I don’t get my coffee brake. But, it may be life threatening for anyone to take away my art pieces. My pieces were gifted by friends or aquired on favorite trips and unlike TV, puts me in my “Happy Place”.

    In conclusion. No, I will not die if you take away my art. But if you do, your life may be risking your life…and isn’t that a necessity?

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