The Role of the Artist in Society

A couple years ago at North Park, philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff visited our campus.  He addressed the question, “What is the role of art in peacemaking?”  In the same year,  professional peace-builder and intercultural mediator David Anderson Hooker came to campus to speak on the our 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 from becoming an economist, to a community activist, to a lawyer.  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 conversation 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?

For class, review these videos.  Take note of quotes or ideas or claims that resonate with you.  Spend some time jotting down ideas about how you would answer this question.  Bring the ideas to class and join the conversation.  The conversation will work if we all bring questions to ask and ideas to share.

A few online video resources to raise some basic questions:

Image credit:  From “Santa’s Ghetto” :



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