The Role of the Artist in Society

Last week, philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff visited North Park University.  He addressed the question, “What is the role of art in peacemaking?”  Also last week, professional peace-builder and intercultural mediator David Anderson Hooker came to campus to speak on the our campus wide question, “What is peace?”  In his comments, he laid out a number of levels of activity that people can engage to build a more peaceful world.  At the end of this list he said, “But if you really want to change the Age, not just the next day, or month, or year, or 5 years to be more peaceful, but the Age.  Then you need to work in the arts, for the arts enable us to re-imagine our world on a large scale.”

Our final topic in the “Philosophy of Art Class” is “What is the role of the artist in society?”  What is the role of the painter, musician, sculptor, playwright, dancer, architect or poet in society?  Who gives them this role?  Is their role an ethical one that necessarily connects to moral values of justice, or peace, or hope?  Is their role to be the revolutionary or marginalized prophet?  Or is their role to offer a way to pay attention, in simple everyday acts of imagination and creativity, that carves out an opening in a crowded shouting world?

A few online video resources to raise some basic questions:

Image credit:  From “Santa’s Ghetto” :



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