At the mention of the Detroit Institute of Arts, my brother’s eyes glaze over, his attention turns back to Snapchat and my answer to his “What are we doing this weekend?” is left hanging in the atmosphere.
It’s a classic Nick response to anything that isn’t sports, action movies, comedy shows or cereal.
I was 15 once. I can get on that level. I understand wanting to spend the day in front of the TV, eating Cocoa Puffs and texting my BFF “I’m soooo bored.” But why should art vie for attention with “Girls”? Why is time spent at galleries being shelved in order to increase time spent playing basketball? What about the fine arts is unattractive for the younger generations?
In part, the disconnect occurs because of the definition of “fine arts.” Because the fine arts are simply arts created for aesthetic appeal, there’s no limit as to what can be included under the term’s umbrella. They are not made to have a practical purpose; rather, they are a break from the everyday, purpose-driven societies we inhabit.
But something gets lost in translation. With the advent of complex technology, high-speed Internet, musical innovation and animation advances, the fine arts have become outdated — second rate to these newfound, aesthetically innovative outlets. Because, now, film is a form of fine art: It requires little practical use, and is created for the enjoyment and relaxation of the viewer. And so is TV, and music, and surfing the Internet for pictures of cats.
This brave new world of decidedly not fine arts-related arts have come and taken the place of days spent in front of Manet paintings and Rodin sculptures. Rather than eliminate the fine arts from our lives, we’ve advanced as a society and filled the need for a creative outlet with the new, exciting, easily accessible arts.
And it doesn’t help that the culture surrounding trips to museums, concert halls and ballet premieres is “stuffy” and “uptight.” Young adults are used to chewing popcorn and texting their boyfriends while watching the new James Bond movie. They’re used to pre-gaming concerts and dancing along to the music. With the ability to be three places at once, giving that up to spend the day in a hushed room, walking from one artist’s work to another is a less-than-optimal option.
It’s a sad development: There’s a reason something is classic. It stands the test of time. Van Gogh’s Starry Night will never go out of style, as compared to the majority of TV shows, albums, films and Internet games people get attached to. And, if not for this reason alone, it’s important to be familiar with and appreciate the fine arts — to take time for them. But with the speed at which things come into fashion now, we’ve become used to new, better, faster. Things that stay the same hold less interest than the latest app.
“I just feel like every time I go, it’s like … I’m just standing there, and it’s cool and I get that it’s beautiful, but I breeze through and I’m ready to go,” my brother cracks, after I steal his iPod away. “And then when I’m done, and no one else is, I feel like I don’t get it. Like I missed something. And then I’m bored.”
It’s a new age of aesthetically pleasing entertainment. It’s not that the fine arts are misunderstood, it’s just that they require a different temperament — a different pace. The speed of the new world has turned art-goers into snobs and the new generation into indifferent participants.
Of course, I believe it’s invaluable and important to frequent classical music concerts and art exhibits. And I firmly believe there’s a lot to learn from the slower-paced arts. But it’s getting harder to convince others of this, to shove them into the DIA long enough for them to understand why this form of art has been around for centuries. So maybe it’s up to our parents and grandparents to force us, to push us into the galleries and remind us to turn our phones off. To enjoy something without rushing onto the next thing.