Art educates, enlightens students

“Whistler’s Mother” is in San Francisco along with approximately 100 works by some of the first 19th century impressionists including Manet, Monet, Renoir and Sisley. For the first time, these remarkable scenes capturing the beauty, history and philosophy of the human experience stemming from mid-19th century France are being shared – as all art should be.

Art does no good sitting in one country’s museum. The arts are a powerful vehicle for communication by expressing visions that are beyond the capacity of words. For art to be hogged in one part of the world or kept in storage does not fulfill art’s function as a medium for communication across the ages.

Art is history, but yet the sharing of all history is sadly lacking in modern society — a cause of conflict among nations since understanding of cultural differences is low. Political scientists describe the “clash of civilizations” — the conflict between Islamic fundamentalists and Western society — as a struggle resulting from miscommunication and an ignorance of reciprocal cultures.

Through the sharing of history — the story of human motivation for action — world leaders can better understand the countries they choose to interact with. Every big shot politician should be required to take an art history course and a supranational organization should be founded for the sake of the sharing of art globally.

While these goals for society might be unrealistic, art is not disappearing anytime soon and should be shared, aside from its political and historical suggestions, for its beauty.

The world would be a different place if the works of the Italian Renaissance were not scattered around the world. If they were all kept in the great mansions of the rich families only to be enjoyed by those select few or even kept in Italy, millions of people would never witness the emotional qualities revealed in the works of the old Italian masters through techniques pioneered by the likes of Fra Angelico and Da Vinci.

Fortunately, those with the resources can fly to France to see the “Mona Lisa” but Americans who can’t leave the country and live on the East Coast can head to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. to see Da Vinci’s “Ginerva.” More than a few of Fra Angelico’s works reside at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

It is important for students to embrace their city and the breadth of the art available for their viewing pleasure — art not just in a museum but in the heart of the Mission or on stop signs and bus stops. Students working for the Mural Music and Arts Project (MMAP) will tell you that art gives a person a deeper understanding of their surroundings and of themselves.

Students should go see the historic work of the impressionists because the paintings are here for a limited time only but there is the greater a reason — the reason why convent requires students to take art history and studio art. Art appreciation and understanding is part of our education.

The beauty and social aspects of art are more than enough reason to require the sharing of it. To expose art is to educate – even if fine art programs in America are disappearing. The sharing of art will not and cannot be taken for granted.