Bailey Kadian: The versatility of art

Thursday, April 14, 2016 - 3:27pm

If you search for one song on YouTube, you will find hundreds of covers for it. It’s amazing. From solos to duets to group versions, there are so many different ways people adapt a song to create something new and different.

One original piece of art creates an array of new products — if you search for a play or musical, you might discover years of revivals following its original premiere. Art is so complex, and so are people. 

There are endless possibilites to create products that are both passionate and creative, and therein lies the versatility of art.

You can listen to a song and love different things about it every time you play. Someone looks at the score of that song and plays it his or her own way. Then someone sings it his or her own way. Hence the never-ending and unbelievably engaging way in which art proves its versatility.

There is a lot of debate surrounding this idea of whether or not an original song or piece of art should be changed hundreds or even thousands of different ways. Some think these adaptations take away from the original song or artist.  However, some of the best talent I’ve ever seen comes from younger artists finding inspiration from other established artists and creating something original from it. Shows like “The Voice” or “American Idol” are prime examples of these artistic projects. Singers hear a song, and they can make it sound like something new by adding their own talent and skills.

Versatility, in its simplest terms, is the ability for something to be adapted into a different form or changed. Art that looks or sounds one way can be turned into something different.

Versatility could also be defined as the ability to serve many uses. This seems, on one level, a bit strange considering most of us mutually appreciate art for its ability to grant pleasure and entertainment. It’s amazing that it can serve a purpose beyond solely entertaining an audience. We have different reasons for choosing certain art — different needs, different expectations.

One person might go see a show on a Saturday night because they are exhausted from their week and want to relax. Others might go because they adore the lead and have seen every show that actor has starred in. Or, one might see the show because 15 years ago they saw its opening and they want to see how it has changed.

Hence the brilliance of it — layered versatility. Art serves people differently and it is constantly evolving.

I find the versatility of art to be an incredible topic to explore because it illuminates what a privilege it is to engage in so many different types of art and witness what artists produce. It is clear to me that this idea extends far beyond artists and their craft.

How do we gain versatility as students, leaders and influencers? There are ways we can add more dimension and knowledge to what we already invest our time into, we just need to be willing to find them.  

The emerging challenge while creating and innovating is fighting the tendencies that threaten our ability to be versatile. We often fall into a rhythm of what we’re good at. We find ourselves stuck in a safe niche, allowing us to encourage our strengths in our given talent, while avoiding our weaknesses. All of us fight versatility by simply remaining within the confines of what works best for us. We don’t always try something new or explore new possibilities because it is easier to see success from what we know we can do well.

Many activities we are involved with here on campus or even in years to come require collaboration, which drives us toward creativity, because all of us have our own strengths to contribute. Often the best concepts or ideas come from people offering what they know best and allowing others to support what they lack.

It’s beneficial for others if we apply our own strengths towards our work. But by exploring other things outside of our realm of comfort, we can discover aspects of ourselves that complement our existing strengths. If you’re a skilled leader and find yourself in some sort of leadership position, you can probably learn the most about how to serve in that role better by observing someone else’s leadership. By putting yourself in an environment where you don’t lead, but are rather being led, you may just realize you have something different to offer and find room for new creativity and growth.

Perhaps the best thing we could do for ourselves is further explore the concept of versatility by acquiring more skills and passion towards what we already love. Just like the covers of popular songs or revivals of well-known plays, you’ll probably find there are hundreds, or even thousands, of ways to achieve that.