Blank Canvas: Why Art Matters

              Humans have always had a relationship with art in one form or another. From prehistoric cave drawings to ancient instruments and literature, art has always been and will continue to be an interwoven part of our existence. Without cave markings and ancient artifacts a lot of what is now known about prehistoric times would have remained a mystery. The different types of art in play in today’s society will help future generations understand what the world was like before they came along. Through the messages embedded in art, people can understand lessons from past cultures which inform how we can move forward in a more efficient and productive way.

Passages of Light by James Turrell

            Art forces humans to look beyond that which is necessary to survive and leads people to create for the sake of expression and deeper meaning. It would seem our very DNA is coded to create and appreciate art; toddlers draw on walls, play in their food, and react to music, even without having been taught these things.  I have seen and encouraged this part of our DNA in the classroom as a professor of art for many years. 

             Artistry can be portrayed in so many varied ways each and every day- it is integral to our self expression. Some are directly involved in the creative process (like me) while others immerse themselves in experiencing and appreciating the fruits of artist’s passionate labor. Whatever the case, the arts play a big role in how humans see and interact in the world. Art helps us emotionally, financially, psychologically, and it even helps to shape individual and collective personality whether it’s through literature, music, dance, poetry, drawings, paintings, ceramics or even graffiti.

             In addition to providing commentary about the larger culture, art makes life more manageable, tolerable and enjoyable. One may not think about more utilitarian items and places as “art,” but they do contribute to one’s aesthetic experience. Think about the iPhone, the Fort Worth Water Gardens, Call of Duty: Black Ops, floor rugs, royal processions, Gucci’s Spring line, Versace furniture, Ducati motorcycles, Land Rovers, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, Calvin Klein, Calatrava bridges, sunglasses, military uniforms, Star Wars, Rolling Stone Magazine covers and the Transformers.  The artistic touch is integrated into the design of everything around us—from the computer or cell phone that you are reading this article on to basic, everyday items such as coffee mugs or toothbrushes. Design influences what we think, the way we feel and the decisions we make. And when it is exceptionally well-done, good design is virtually invisible. We usually don’t think about the creative effort or thought process that leads up to the final product.   However, when we encounter something that is poorly designed, we can usually pinpoint its failings, and we’ll go out of our way to avoid using that product, service or environment in the future. If you remove any element founded in creativity, art and design, and all that remains are piles of materials that require human imagination and visual thinking.

The Fort Worth Water Gardens, TX by Philip Johnson and John Burgee

“The arts make my brain and my heart stretch to make room for newness.

Sometimes, parts of me are displaced and replaced by wiser stuff. And that’s a fine thing.”

– Victoria Hutter, National Endowments of the Arts

       From beautifying the surroundings to helping to alleviate stress and discomforts, art is essential for physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. Music, called the song of the angels, is used by everyone to change their mood; it is increasingly used to battle depression and other mental illnesses. There are numerous studies showing how people feel better whether by creating, enjoying or appreciating art. Most  hospitals and health institutions have come to embrace this notion, encouraging the connection with our creative selves. There is a relatively new organization , the National Organization of Art and Health (NOAH), that's mission is to bring the Arts directly to patients.


    For artists, sometimes the only way to express a feeling or thought is to immerse oneself in the process of creating. For others, mental clarity on a particular situation only comes about after indulging in something artistic. Art can also help you delve into your psyche and understand things about yourself that you never recognized before. Including art in your daily life, whether through the creative process itself or the beauty and energy these creations can bring to your daily life, can expand your mind and enhance your perspective in non-creative pursuits.

          Whether you consider yourself an artist or just someone who loves art in one or all of its many forms, it’s easy to see why art is important to the world and its people.

“Art matters because it illustrates the human experience—

the wonder of it, the bewilderment of it, the whimsy of it, and so much more.

We would not be connected so deeply without the existence of art.”

– Kathleen Dinsmore, DE Division of the Arts

The Audience Collection by Jane Runyeon


What inspired me to write this article?

The controversies around the recent novel American Dirt, a heartwarming poignant story about the train migration of a mother and her son fleeing the brutality of a Mexican cartel was the impetus to write this piece. The books controversy is around the fact that the author, Jeanine Cummings was not a migrant but a white woman from New York ; how in the world could she write about this subject?  This made me think of the early 20 century bestselling author Zane Gray’s Riders of the Purple Sage, a western adventure classic written before Gray went traveling through the American West. Their creative research, craft  and their imaginations are negated by the critics. Both authors were attacked for not having firsthand experience with their subjectbut when interviewed both said

their interests were in creating a conversation,

a bridge for understanding.

"That's Art!" - Jane

The Audience Collection: The Rajah

An ode to Reading PA and the Santander Performing Arts Center which in my childhood was called the Rajah Theatre.  It remains the only golden age movie house and theatre in the city where one can still sit in a velvet seat, gaze dizzily at the domed, frescoed ceiling and the “old world” opulence of the theatre boxes.

This is where on the gravity defying  balcony I began to discover the beauty of creativity and the passionate spirit. My very own movie reel like Disney’s Fantasia . This piece was inspired by the calm and richness you feel after the orchestra has finished and the hall is close to empty. The imprinted echo of the music .You are forever changed in that moment.