By Noah Dawson
What is art? What distinguishes the act of creating art from manufacturing a product? It’s a question philosophers have debated throughout the ages, but I’d like to throw my two cents in.
To me, art is freedom, freedom for the creator to break from norms, freedom to inject the creation with their personality. Its creation involves the freedom to create something that not only appeals to others, but appeals to others by expressing something about the artist.
In music, there’s a reason Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is often ranked as one of the greatest albums of all time. It isn’t because it was perfectly crafted, it’s because it essentially redefined what an album was, and what an album could be.
Speaking more broadly, there’s a reason virtually all mediums of art have their histories defined by periods of change. The date in history when the Romantic era style of painting was perfected is not a key point of discussion, but the beginning of the opposing Realism era style is.
Still, there is a category often referred to as art that seems diametrically opposed to this definition: government sponsored art. What else but government is so fundamentally opposite freedom? I would go so far to argue that the artistic value of creations coming from the government is inherently diminished by the simple fact that it came from the government. The artist who creates the art might place some expression into the art, and the person or group of people who made the decision to commission the art may have their ideas of what the work will express, but the end product is still tainted by the fact that it is the result of the opposite of what defines artistic freedom.
At best, these creations can, despite their origin, still resonate with the public as would pure art. At worst, though, what the government calls art is better described as propaganda.