Since the beginning of human history, researchers have known that art has profoundly impacted society and culture. It changes and challenges people’s opinions, instills values in people across generations, and even affects the fundamental sense of self.
Paintings, sculptures, music, literature, and modern digital art are essentially the repository of a society’s collective memory. Yes, we can always look to historical records to know what happened at a certain point in a society’s history, but to truly understand what people in that society felt was truly important, we need to look to their art. It tells us what these people held sacred, how the average person viewed the world and gives us a better idea of what life was like several generations ago.
If art has that kind of effect on culture and society, it stands to reason that culture and society will have an impact on art. Works of art can bring about cultural shifts, but it usually works the other way around, with major cultural shifts impacting the art of the time. For example, political upheaval and rebellion times will inspire artists to create bold, angry works and reflect on how the average person might view the world. These works are often more powerful and more memorable than what the “ruling class” might create. Popular technology can also impact the kind of art that is being created. This can be seen in digital art or blockbuster movies that rely on CGI for visual effects. Even video games, which are often dismissed as unimportant toys by many, are often seen as works of art these days.
The bottom line here is that society and art have always gone hand-in-hand. Almost everything we know about how ancient people lived comes from the art that they created, and modern art continues to reflect what is happening in society.
Art is always important to society. Even if you don’t think you have an eye for art or think it’s trivial compared to the rest of the world, it has a larger effect on everything around you than you might think. Art of all kinds will continue to evolve as long as human society and culture continue to exist.