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Why art matters

Why does art matter? It really depends on who you ask.

Everyone will have a different answer.

Take for example, Joshua Yeldham. The artist and author of Surrender: A Journal For My Daughter, sees art as his refuge.

“Creativity can be your most powerful ally,” Yeldham said.

Low self-esteem and fear from bullying during his school years led Yeldham to seek comfort in creativity by drawing humorous cartoons of his teachers.

Then there is Erik Jensen, The Saturday Paper editor and author of Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen. He does not consider himself an artist but he has a very philosophical approach to art of all forms.

“It provides answers to questions that are too big [and] articulates things society doesn’t know how to,” mused Jensen.

Sculpture detail/2015 Byron Bay Writers Festival/Pic Kalem Horn

Sculpture detail, Byron Bay Writers Festival. Credit: Kalem Horn

Similarly, Sibella Court, author of Gypsy, does not identify as an artist. Instead she believes, above all, that she is a curator of other people’s art, rather than as an artist herself.

Her collection, Society Inc, is made up of artwork she has acquired from her travels. Court lived in New York for several years, but her desire to share worldly creativity brought her back to her Australian roots.

If art is so important, how do we support it?

The panelists each had differing and altogether wise views on how to show support.

Court’s advice was to increase funding for the arts by having more people visit art galleries. Doing so generates support, not only financially, but also in celebration of the artist.

Earlier in the session, Jensen stated that being an artist is a hugely expensive endeavor, and the people who have been successful have been given the necessary funding early on.

Jensen encouraged audiences to not only look at art, but to think about and critically engage with it.

Yeldham finished with a spiritual reflection on the process of making art, proclaiming that “all things regrow from the fire”. When faced with adversity and self-doubt, he said, you must hang in there and train yourself.

Lachlan Rutherford is a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) student at Southern Cross University. He is writing his Honours thesis on David Foster Wallace’s fiction.

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