Due to the large amount of time we’ve all been spending indoors during this past year, many of us have searched for new hobbies. After all, endlessly browsing or consuming content from Instagram, TikTok, Youtube, and Netflix can only occupy so much of our mental energy before it becomes unhealthy. Many people have taken up knitting, pottery, watercolors, or writing poems. While it is positive that so many people are inclined to gravitate towards creativity, there is a certain odd phenomenon that I detected. One night, over our weekly zoom call, a friend of mine decided to give up her recently acquired painting hobby, because although she enjoyed it, she “wasn’t good enough”.
After that conversation, I began to think more about art, and how the production of art has become such a competitive industry. After all, art itself has become a product that could be bought, and sold, with the artist often becoming a commodity of a sort themselves. Brand marketing has taken a priority, with art being deemed successful only if it can meet the cultural standards put forth by (all too often) people who just wish to capitalize off of it. This mentality lends itself to a false dichotomy: either something is “good enough” to be “real” art, or it is not worth creating. In America, our capitalist society has taught us to value productivity above all else. This competitive atmosphere does people a major discredit, for it makes them forget that art for art’s sake is something that is not only a valid reason to create, it is also necessary for human happiness.
Art, whether through the medium of music, film, visuals, theater, or writing functions as a means of expression. An artist can bare their soul in their work, and be better understood by others. In times of turmoil, art can be a means of coping, both for the audience and the creator, and be a form of escape. Thus, it is needed, and always will be needed. If it hurts no one and enriches the happiness of the creator, then it is art worth making.
After my meditation on art, I decided to pursue something I hadn’t in years: playing the flute that lay in a dusty case, forgotten in a closet. In middle school and freshman year of high school, I had been a band kid who devoutly rehearsed and competed, always doing my utmost in order to stand out in my section. While pulling the flute out, and wiping it clean of dust and fingerprints, I observed how delicate and beautiful of an instrument it truly was, and felt a pang of regret that it hadn’t touched my lips in four years. Of course, I had stopped playing it due to the competitive nature of the band. I also had the tendency to constantly compare myself to my peers. They always seemed to be far more talented than me, no matter how hard I worked.
Alone, in my parent’s living room, I tuned the flute, wincing at the shrillness of the sounds that came forth. Clumsily, my fingers explored the keys, and with the help of muscle memory, labored their way through some scales. There was no one there to amuse but myself. I didn’t get out old band music, I didn’t search for old contest pieces or rehearsal exercises. Instead, I found a flute karaoke site, and decided to try “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus. It was my best performance.
By Gracie Nordgren