Many of us are not aware of the various disciplines within the arts because there’s so little conversation about these in our schools and homes. If you don’t know the choices that lie before you, how can you make an informed decision?
Many who have a liking for the arts tend to curb their interest and keep it within the realm of ‘hobbies’. We are not encouraged to take it up as a profession because our parents/teachers/peers advise that it may not be a lucrative or dependable choice. Or we’re told to study something ‘safe’ that we’re not really interested in to have a ‘back-up’.
When we say the ‘Arts’, we’re talking about a stream that has several disciplines. ‘Arts’ is simply an umbrella term to cover many of these varied disciplines. Some examples are literature, fine arts and music. What makes a discipline an ‘art’ and not a ‘science’?
The common distinction that is made between the two streams is that art is about creative communication — of ideas and emotions. It deals with the realm of the abstract. Science, on the other hand, is about establishing truth or finding objective facts through verifiable experimentation.
Now this is a very basic definition and it does not mean that there is no scientific method in the arts or no creative method in the sciences! For instance, an artist who mixes colours in her palette has to know which combination of primary or secondary colours will give her the shade she desires. You may be surprised to hear that a lot of mathematics is involved in music.
Do you know how the sewing machine was invented? In 1845 Elias Howe, the inventor, had the idea of a machine with a needle which would go through a piece of cloth but he didn’t know how to make this work. Then, he had a dream in which cannibals were preparing to cook him! They were dancing around the fire waving their spears, and Howe observed that at the head of each spear there was a small hole through the shaft. The up and down motion of the spears and the hole stayed in his memory when he woke. And that’s how the idea of passing the thread through the needle close to the point came to him!
The arts can be divided broadly as visual, literary and performing arts. Visual arts include painting, sculpture, design, crafts, photography, filmmaking and architecture. They also include applied arts like fashion design, graphic design, interior decoration and landscaping. Literary arts include writing fiction, poetry, non-fiction, biographies, short stories, auto-biographies, journalism and mass communication. The word ‘literature’ means ‘made from letters’. The performing arts are art forms in which artists use their bodies or voices to communicate. In the visual arts and literary arts, communication happens by creating an external art object — a book, a canvas or a photograph. In the performing arts, it’s the artist who becomes the canvas.
Many of these disciplines are available in India for academic study at the undergraduate/postgraduate levels. It’s true that they are not as sought after as are other disciplines from the science stream in the public imagination but you’ll be surprised to know how tough it is to get into some of these colleges and how rigorous and motivating their programmes are. Bottomline: if you feel you have an aptitude for the arts, do your research on how best to pursue it.