Art: it’s what’s for humanity

My mother at Chicago Art Institute
My mother at Chicago Art Institute

My high school career had very little to recommend it, but one highlight was an art teacher named Bob Rock. Which is certainly one of the coolest names any teacher ever had. In the years since then, I have watched public schools march relentlessly away from everything human. There is less art, less music, less “shop”, less poetry, more keyboarding skills, more PowerPoint. Less making, less communicating. You understand, of course; budgets. That is, to put it mildly, a mistake.

When the work is done, students will be able to read an invoice and tell a robot to pack 300 cartons of frozen french fries on the truck, which will drive itself to its destination. Or come to think of it, the human may not be needed at all, except at the consuming end. If you are thinking there is a fatal flaw in that model, you are correct.

The lifelong work of being human

The Bean at night
Why are people drawn to art? A question that may forever elude marketing experts (but no one else)

I don’t know if art is uniquely human, but it is very human. For the most part we get up in the morning, brush our teeth, go to work, Do The Thing In That Place, go home, and consume art created by others before going to bed. That last part is good, but go beyond it. Make some art of your own.

When you sing in the shower, that is art. Draw a little cartoon on an envelope – art. Dance a little bit when you hear the music? Art again. Even take a selfie in front of a public sculpture? Yes that too, is art. It doesn’t matter if your work will never be on PBS or hang in a gallery; you are pushing back the cold and insensate, however briefly, and saying “Human being, here!” That habit is worth expanding, even in the face of derision.

Do a project. Write a poem or a story and post it on Facebook. Push back.


  • The woman in the picture above, my mother, was born before dial telephones were very common. She has just traveled from Seattle to Chicago to visit her son and to see the Chicago Art Institute. On the day before this picture, she had walked 2 miles, refusing a cab, refusing a wheelchair. We visited favorite art, and saw works that were new to us.
    Autofocus sometimes fails to work well. So this picture of my mother will never be bigger than 600 pixels. Even so, you can see her posture.
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Older technology guy with photography and history background