Annie Horkan

Positive Social Change Through Art And Imagination

As an artist I have witnessed up close and personal the predominant oppression of the arts in our educational institutions. It is a given when public schools are faced with budget cuts, the arts and music are always the first to go. Even in private schools and colleges, art and music are often dependent upon donations and fund raising in order to provide the educational progress in these creative endeavors. It is a crying shame when the arts are set aside in favor of academic learning and knowledge. For it is in the gifts of art and imagination that we dare to look beyond the known, foster our capacity to think outside the limits of the box and embrace an experimental attitude in the face of social challenges.

Every culture in the world today is undergoing monumental change which is desperately needed, and long overdue. Our patriarchal system of domination and control has resulted in an inhumane imbalance of rampant social injustice and environmental crisis. We are in critical need of creative, fresh vision in a society where the majority has been educationally programmed to conform to the concepts, ideas and beliefs of the current establishment. Our solutions to the global problems which confront us cannot be found within these limitations. The words of Albert Einstein remind us that our imagination is more important than knowledge…that knowledge is limited while life flourishes with the imagination. While educational institutions slash the budget for the arts, they are diminishing the creative energy needed to spawn a better world.

Einstein was known as a scientist, not an artist. Yet, most all scientists, inventors and great thinkers will tell you that their advancement and success does not result from the logical rigors of academics, but from their exploration into uncharted territory beyond everything they understood and perceived with the rational mind. In other words, academic knowledge is only half the solution; the other half is the power of creativity and imagination. Together, these generate creative visions for real solutions.

It is well known that children possess an inherent curiosity and creativity along with an active imagination. Yet, our educational system is designed to suppress these natural gifts. How different might the world be if we were to encourage a balance of knowledge and creative imagination? I think we would be shocked by the difference. We have yet to comprehend the depths of just how crucial the arts are for real, positive social change. In less fortunate countries where the attainment of academic knowledge is a privilege, that arts and music are thriving. When I traveled to Mali in 2005, almost everyone I met played music, danced, sang or created art of some kind. Though the people existed at poverty level, they were nonetheless happy and productive as a result of art and music. The arts breed happiness. Music and the arts take us on a journey down the road less traveled…a revolutionary road for both positive change and inspiration.

My father was an attorney, and believed art was a luxury. If he were alive today, and I told him art was critical for social change, he would argue me into the ground. He chose the road well traveled as a lawyer, but revealed his creativity as a farmer. He did not attend school to learn farming; he learned how to farm by doing it. He was not as a farmer programmed nor conditioned by boundaries, rules, established ideas, books, academia or limitations. He chose instead to listen to the land, and let it be his guide. As a result, he found successful solutions to farming challenges ahead of his time. In this way, he was a farming artist.

There is an artist in everyone. To be an artist is to free yourself from the suppression of your innate creativity, and to light the fire of your imagination. It is the power of imagined possibilities beyond what we think is attainable. The arts propel our conditioned thoughts into a new world of exploration which has no boundaries nor limits. If we are to create global social change in which all, not some, thrive, it will require a collective verdict to surpass educational conditioning, and become continuously inspired by an endless flow of new ideas. We have enough knowledge. By itself, it is lacking the authority of the imagination which can bring us new vision. For the artist in us all, anything and everything is viable and imaginable.

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