The Necessity of Art at a Time Like This


Creativity and innovation can be a counterforce against the violent unmaking of our society. – Michael S. Roth, in the San Francisco Chronicle, June 29, 2004

Michael S. Roth, immediate past president of the California College for the Arts, lobbied for the necessity of art in a time of war. He counseled the artists and poets and filmmakers who made up the graduating class of 2004 to consider how the skills of making are powerful, proactive and peaceful responses to destruction, deprivation and degradation. And I agree, heart and soul.

Artists are our both our hope and our conscience. They tend to speak when propriety might recommend they be silent; artists will shout when propriety might recommend that they whisper. Artists preserve the ability to hold at bay the tidal waves of current events in order to create from a reserve removed from time and place; and they also proclaim the right to use the subjects of current events to announce their reactions to the world as it is around them. And artists, when organized, have contributed to the rebuilding of society.

One example is the Arts and Crafts Movement of the 19th century, which began as a response to industrialization in Europe and the United Kingdom. A reformation in its own right, the Arts and Crafts Movement was rooted in quality, integrity, craftsmanship, skill and purpose. Whether or not the styles emerging from the Arts and Crafts Movement echo the reader’s own personal taste, the movement itself reformed society’s thinking about the role of the artist and the essential nature of the work of the artist in contemporary culture.

On View: Nor Any Drop to Drink by Margaret Adams Parker. 2007. Woodcut over collagraph with solarplate etchings. 23″ x 19″.

As Seen In: Landscapes and Laments, Woodcuts, Etchings and Sculpture by Margaret Adams Parker, at the Washington Printmakers Gallery, 1732 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington DC.

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