The Internet has been called the world’s great balancer. A neutral, universal access point to information, content, and communications. No doubt in it’s wake our society has been fundamentally changed: think of the sharing economy, and the cord-cutter revolution–no longer do we wait for cable television to broadcast something interesting, we search for and consume the media we desire.

A question was posed to me recently regarding contemporary modes of consumption, with particular reference to Art, that evolved into a question of care. There are many types of Art: High Art, low art, street art, fine art, performance, visual, interactive art, etc. Quantifying the actual consumption of art as a correlative to “caring” about art is difficult to say the least.

Does my appreciation of a public mural admit that I care? Or should I first find and donate to the artist to prove it?

Bringing these two ideas together, answering the question “Does the Internet Generation care about Art?” becomes murky. I’ll operate on the premise that things you can see are more easily believed, rather than rely upon feelings and consensus that are more figurative. Facts, yo.

Fact: founded in August 2000, DeviantArt is the largest online social network for artists and art enthusiasts, and a platform for emerging and established artists to exhibit, promote, and share their works with an enthusiastic, art-centric community. With over 35 million registered members and over 65 million unique visitors per month, members — knowns as deviants — upload over 160,000 original art works every day, everything from painting and sculpture to digital art, pixel art, films, and anime.

DeviantART
That’s a LOT of people, right? And that’s just one community, amongst many dedicated “arts” communities that have found a platform online (e.g., https://www.artsy.net/, http://newhive.com/, http://www.digitalarti.com/). When we broaden our scope to the popular social media channels, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest… there is a definite trend towards visually compelling content. Some would even call it art.

#Art

But let’s go beyond the digital realm, do people care about art IRL and AFK? We can quantify that with visits to galleries, museums, and events, in the dollars spent on admissions, donations, and purchasing, and in the funding of arts programs in our schools and communities.

Here in DC, we saw a huge outpouring of support for the Funk Parade, a truly grassroots effort at celebrating the Spirit of Funk and the vibrant history of Black Broadway on U Street. In Tucson, you have the annual All Souls Procession for Dia de Los Muertos. Thousands upon thousands come out and support these arts festivals.

So, does the Internet Generation care about art?

YES

But at the same time, arts and music programs are the first to get the axe when education budgets are tightened. The artists themselves struggle to maintain a healthy live/work environment without affordable housing or studio space. And when was the last time YOU bought art?

I guess what it comes down to is many people care about art but perhaps haven’t found the right way to show it.

Here are some ways to fix that:

  • Personally, you can support by getting out there and getting involved. Go to art events for more than just the free wine and crackers, to meet the artist and maybe even buy something; if buying the art seems unreasonable, look to younger or less established artists and school shows and galleries.
  • Lend your voices to those calling for government support. We have initiatives like the “Creative Economy” that will further incentivize production of the arts, and we continue to see amazing support come from the people running the many, many non-profit organizations and for-profit galleries that would love your patronage.
  • Visit Etsy instead of Amazon, go to the farmers market instead of the mall, donate to a Kickstarter, Indiegogo or whatever’s the coolest new thing you can find. Fortunately, a big trend in business these days is a focus on design–UX, brand, graphic, and storytelling–and yes, that’s art too.

And trust me, it’s not worth being overly judgmental as an excuse to not seek out art. “Is it good? Is it worth anything? Are they selling out?” — if it provokes an emotion, looks great, makes you think or just gives you pause, it has value. Period.

So in the words of Robert Bettmann of Day Eight and DC Advocates for the Arts, let’s be #ArtsPositive. After all, a life without art just sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

Life, Without Art?
Life, Without Art?
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