Art Values & Philosophies
By Daniel Foster
Art is fundamentally about the pursuit of beauty and/or truth. Beauty is not always truthful, and truth is not always beautiful. Very few professions work with such important content and tools for change and the humanistic benefit of the individual, family, groups, organizations, communities, and society.
Everyone’s “Wow” is equal and authentic. We are all visual creatures that become experts about what we love to look at a very early age – and then institutionalized child development and educational processes work to undermine our confidence in our own eyes and natural “response system”, further reinforced in adulthood by the art world elitist establishment and its intellectual and cultural arrogance. Eventually, too many adults don’t know or are too scared to express what they like or don’t like in art.
Trend towards collective vs. isolated impact models. Competition in the capitalistic marketplace may be good; but, it’s ‘poison’ in the charity/nonprofit world. Funders/philanthropists create grant competitions for funding between similar-missioned nonprofit organizations in the same definable community. Ultimately, this produces highly siloed, fragmented, and disorganized community efforts that DO NOT address the systemic causal factors — but, simply place a “band aid” on the year-after-year problem. Sustainable impact models require collaborative, coordinated, and leveraged approaches utilizing many diverse leaders/organizations with adequate long-term resource support. After a century of American philanthropy, the nonprofit sector needs a revolutionary change (like every other major industry/institution in America over 100 years old). The nonprofit “operating system” has grown arcane, wasteful, and ineffective in addressing the needs of its citizens/communities. Read “Collective Impact” by Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Art is Content AND Context. The realm of content has been explored extensively in the 20th century – particularly in the postmodern era…The new frontier in art is comprehensively exploring the ‘contextualization’ of this content into our daily public and private lives and hour-by-hour “consciousness”. Many civic-public arts programs are a crude form of “tokenism” …A token nod or gesture to the local arts community. The difference between a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ arts community is generally about 2-3 dozen outdoor sculptures/artworks scattered around many square miles of land, walkways, and streets! Most residents in a ‘good’ art city live without any ‘good’ art in their visual public/outdoor landscape, other than an occasional sculpture or mural observed for a few seconds while in transit. Most offices and workplaces are devoid of ‘good’ or ‘original’ art that reflect the values (and artists) of the local community; and, the same is true for most people’s homes. It’s befuddling that many people who spend $500,000 on a home; and $50,000 on a car; won’t even spend $500 on a good original artwork, instead opting to spend $50 on a generic framed art poster over the sofa. FYI, the art in your home speaks as loudly about YOU to your family and friends as the car or the home, maybe even more so!
Art is the “artifact” of a creative journey/process designed/executed by the artist. Most great artists are firmly committed to the “process”, recognizing that good ingredients and good processes produce good outputs and results…usually. The “artifact” is like an artist’s snapshot of his/her journey at a certain moment in time and place.
Art is spiritual technology. Many artists find their source of inspiration from deep within their soul – a powerful portal to connecting with their deepest spiritual, religious, and philosophical beliefs and sense of purpose. Thus, artmaking can be a form of spiritual practice which can produce powerful and enlightened moments of personal transformation, identity, and/or spiritual awareness.
Diversity is everything. Whether derived from ethnic, age, gender, cultural, socio-economic, political, and/or religious backgrounds, diversity of thought and approach is increasingly and exponentially growing in importance in society, community building, organizational management, best practice problem-solving, and the art world.
Freedom of the Artist in the marketplace. Historically, the artist has been highly dependent on the gallery-museum world to validate their talent and careers (and sales/income for the artist). Serious collectors and curators often find, and support artists represented by galleries. Dealers are the “scouts” for collectors/curators. Many/most artists struggle mightily to break into the gallery-museum system. The 21st century art marketplace will be on the internet and undoubtedly art collectors/buyers and artists will find each other more directly and cut out the “middleman” gallery dealer. Important Note: There will always be the need for galleries-museums to research, present, and educate the public about art and how it reflects on and impacts our society and daily lives.
Art is an important tool for economic development, downtown revitalization, and positive quality-of-life community branding/identity. Strong and healthy communities utilize the arts as a critical tool for higher quality of living for its residents and visitors. The arts are a cheap investment for its positive branding and economic development opportunities vs. the alternative quality of life factors that are highly expensive to make a noticeable improvement. Historically, art is the best tool for downtown revitalization. The problem is increased property values and “gentrification” that typically drives the artists out of the revitalized area.
Art is a healing force. The power of art as a form of formal or informal therapy that can heal the body (and our mind, heart, and soul) is very well established and growing in the medical fields. For many of our most desperate and vulnerable individuals and groups in our communities, art can be the last resort/safety net to maintain some sense of hope, escape, or belonging. Art can heal in ways that medicine is ineffective…
Art is an excellent tool of communication – particularly with youth and neglected/marginalized individuals. Many individuals (particularly youth) struggle with conventional forms of communication…but, art is a powerful tool for self-expression and connecting to the world and it can easily transcend barriers (i.e., language, socio-economic, cultural, etc.).
Art is in us all. Artmaking is an instinct in us all – children express their creative voices early and uninhibitedly, and then over time tend to grow artistically shy and insecure with adulthood. The “critical eye” of judgment applied too early in life can be toxic to the artistic spirit growing confident with its own voice/creativity.
Art can defeat ignorance and hatred. Art is the light that defeats darkness. Art educates and enlightens people’s knowledge and understanding for the diversity of cultures and peoples in the world—often building tolerance, understanding, acceptance and appreciation for the commonalities and differences between us all.
Art is not a luxury—rather a necessity. Throughout history, whether its “primitive” tribes or sophisticated civilizations, art is a fundamental element of human and social expression, relatedness, identity, belonging, and consciousness. Art contextualizes the important content of our lives.
Formal education needs to prepare artists for careers. Some of the world’s greatest artists never developed because of “real life” obstacles towards pursuing a full-time career in the arts. Formal higher education institutions are generally inadequate in preparing artists for developing a sustainable and viable career.
Work ethic is essential. Some very talented artists are nonetheless lazy, undisciplined, and/or unfocused. Professionalism usually requires a strong standard of work ethic to reveal and strengthen an artist’s raw talent.
Establish the “Inner Sanctuary”. Often referred to as the “inner studio dialogue”, artists often mature by establishing an “inner sanctum” that their inner creative voice and spirit feels safe and free to “soar” and express itself freely… Artists need to know how to shut out and eliminate the external “noise” and “critical eye”.
Art gives us meaning and identity. Our individual and collective lives and attitudes are heavily defined and influenced by the creative/artistic/cultural environment that we live and work in. Art softens and humanizes the built landscape and our utilitarian world.
Hybridization and Multi-Disciplinary Practices are the Future. Specialization and compartmentalization of all traditional and contemporary disciplines, art forms, and practices are trending towards disintegrating into hybridization, pluralistic, and multi-disciplinary practices via postmodernism. The “generalist” is coming back…
21st century minds will adapt to exponential vs. arithmetic growth. From an evolutionary perspective, humanity is hardwired to live in a world of arithmetic progress and growth. However, the world is now growing exponentially, which challenges individuals and communities to adapt to this new “paradigm”.
New technologies are often the “cutting edge” of the art world. To compete in the art world and develop niches and/or differentiation in the marketplace, new technologies, materials, and media offer tremendous opportunities for artists.
Pursue life-long learning. At its best, life-long learning is a constant on-going process that regularly feeds and rewards the individual or group. When learning slows or stops…status quo conditions prevail giving birth to stagnation and decay. Organizations/groups function best when they operate in a “learning culture” environment.
Daniel Foster is currently the Executive Director & Founder of Shumway Ranch.Org since February 2018 in partnership with the State of California/Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy. Shumway Ranch is an historic 640-acre homestead overlooking eastern Coachella Valley and within the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto National Monument situated pristinely in a rare 12,000-year-old Pinyon Pine/Elfin Forest.
Foster is the past Executive Director of the Oceanside Museum of Art (2012-15), Riverside Art Museum (2003-08), and past President/CEO of The Community Foundation Serving Riverside/San Bernardino Counties (2009-12). Foster was a front-page weekly Columnist/Writer for the Press Enterprise from 2007-12; and monthly Columnist/Writer for 951 Magazine from 2006-09.
Earlier in his career, Foster held professional positions with the San Diego Art Institute, San Francisco Art Institute, University of California San Diego (Visual Arts Department), Headlands Center for the Arts-Sausalito, CA.
Foster has also founded and led several important community-based/nonprofit organizations such as:
- Arts Connection (Arts Council for San Bernardino County)
- North County Arts Network (North County San Diego Arts Council)
- Inland Empire Funder’s Alliance
- Riverside Cultural Consortium
- Oceanside Cultural Consortium
- Inland Regional Arts Forum.
Foster received the “Executive Director of the Year” Award from the Riverside County Agency Executives Association in 2008. The same year, Foster was selected by The James Irvine Foundation as one of the top 10 community leaders in the State of California (a $25,000 award).
Educationally, Foster received a Master of Fine Arts double degree with honors in New Genres and Sculpture from the San Francisco Art Institute. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, plus an additional 3 years of full-time studies at the University of California, San Diego (Revelle College, undergraduate majors in philosophy & art).
Creatively, Foster has been an intentionally isolated, non-commercial, non-exhibiting multi-disciplinary conceptual artist and poet for nearly 35 years; with the notable exception of two solo public art exhibitions in 2016 in San Diego before leaving to move to Pinyon Crest, CA. Art practices involve painting, drawing, conceptual, outdoor site-specific/installations, photography, found objects/sculpture, and assemblages. Foster has also produced 25 unpublished books of poetry/word drawings since 1995. Foster was a full-time artist from 1986-2003 — transitioning heavily to social/community/nonprofit leadership practices via “collective impact” strategies in 2003.
Foster moved from San Diego to Pinyon Crest with his nine-year old son, Kenneth, in August 2017 to start a new chapter of life in the Coachella Valley…