By Artist Laura Melissa Williams
The art world has always been experience-driven: galleries, street art or theatre leave the viewer with their unique thoughts and feelings. But as our economies, society and technology change, how might the ways we experience art and interact with artists shift? Why do art experiences actually matter and what place might they have in our future?
Here are the three ways I believe art experiences matter.
1. Artists help you see the world differently
Artists see the world through a different lens. We question and challenge what is right, beautiful, ugly and normal. We imagine a different world and often exist in a different world too – both in our minds and in the way we choose to live.
Yet we’re misrepresented. In the media and the minds of others we’re often thought of as weird, odd and even seen as crazy. The language used about us is often negative. Even Google predictive search seems to agree.
Yes, artists can be, and are often fringe members of society. But you can’t tar every artist with the same brush. The artists that I’ve met are some of the smartest and articulate people.
Getting closer to artists, even if just spending one day in their company, will stretch your thinking, open up new ways of seeing our world and change how you think about the future.
2. The need for creativity has never been more critical to the world we live in
We need to raise the profile of creativity and change how people perceive and value it.
We live in an increasingly complex, adrenaline charged and stressful world. Technology is invisible. Political and social systems are interconnected, fragmented and global. It’s my belief that the challenges our world faces are huge and will in time impact us all – including those in the developed world.
To live in the kind of world we dream of, we have to create it. And first we have to imagine it. Creativity is needed to look for solutions and solve problems – across all disciplines including politics, science, technology and the arts. Many people link creativity with the act of producing art, not the process that rests behind it or any activity which requires experimentation, failure and sharing.
Many people struggle with art. They’ve had bad experiences at school or in stuffy elitist art galleries. And so creativity is also tarred with the same brush. The belief that “I’m not creative at all” is one myth that I feel passionate about busting. Creativity is as much about mindset as it is about the process, practice and the final piece you’ve created.
Spending a day with an artist is one small step to breaking through the fear of the blank page setting you on a journey to building your confidence towards a creative mindset.
3. The economy around experiences is growing – and artists should be a part of it
The ‘Experience Economy’ – first coined by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore in 1998 – has come of age. We’re moving from a post-consumer goods society and into the consumer experience era. Increasingly, we’re doing things, not buying things. And according to leading financial institutions we’re spending more. To cope with these behavioral changes high street shops are transforming into museums or immersive ‘experience outlets’ which are more emotionally engaging.
Other industries are doing it: and the art world is getting in on it too. Massive cuts to the art sector has meant new forms of revenue are needed through a new business model for engagement. Experiences are increasingly a critical income stream for arts institutions: supplementing (or moving away entirely) from the traditional ‘white wall’ set-up and into new and (arguably) more exciting forms of delivery. Think Tate Lates, or the monthly Natural History Museum Lates, which sees queues looping around the building such is the demand.
These experiences support the arts to become more accessible and exciting to both new and existing audiences and increases profitability and long-term sustainability. Experiences appeal to all, especially today’s generation who invest in memories over ‘product.’ These experiences shape how people think and behave, give them stories to tell and trade and open up minds to learn about themselves.
Individual artists and entrepreneurs are also realising the potential of experiences: In recent years there’s been a notable rise in the number of immersive installations created by artists, and art is also moving out of the gallery into the public sphere. Franchise Freedom – a flying sculpture by Studio Drift in partnership with BMW is a flying swarm of 300 illuminated drones and flown at night over the sea or other landscapes. It’s mesmerizing and was a key feature at Art Basel Miami last year.
Or Unknown Fields – an artist collective and nomadic design studio who you can join on expeditions into the “shadows cast by the contemporary city, to uncover the alternative worlds, alien landscapes, industrial ecologies and precarious wilderness.” Places they’ve explored include The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and Area 51.
Closer to home, founder Minna George created ArtExperiences: a platform designed to ride the crest of the Experience Economy wave in the visual fine arts, by connecting artists with others and offering them the opportunity to glance behind the scenes: into their studio and their minds, connecting through art and sharing stories, experiences and skills.
I believe that Minna is on the cusp of a wave: the need to connect people who’d never usually meet, the right economic model and timing and the need for helping people on their individual creative journeys.