I was at a sculpture garden recently, soaking up the art and good weather. There were very few people in the garden with me, and they were all enjoying the art quietly. Nearby, there was a family with a young daughter. She seemed rather unimpressed by the sculptures.  

Her mother was trying to explain the piece they were looking at when she let out an exasperated sigh, “but what do you do with it?” Her mother began to answer her question only to trail off after “well it’s a sculpture.” Again, her daughter was unimpressed.  

Her concern, albeit slightly obnoxious, was a valid one. What do you do with sculptures? Sure, you could put them up in your home as decor or in a garden as an installation, but then what? If you have a sculpture in your home, when was the last time you really looked at it? When was the last time you really looked at any of the art in your home?

That girl represents a changing attitude toward art and how newer generations appreciate it. It feels like there’s no time to sit and appreciate something without a purpose, so art has taken a back seat. Stress weighs on recent generations like we’ve never seen before, and it leaves us tired and unable to enjoy the questions art pieces can provoke. It seems that after hours at school, sports, extracurriculars, jobs, and homework we only have time to sleep. What precious hours we are left with on the weekends we take to relax or see friends.  

Our minds are only free to wander during boring lessons or after a test when the class is silent and electronics are put away. This is when we need art the most. We need a release from our boredom that is tangible and interesting. But, since I’ve yet to see a class take place in an art museum, boredom persists. Our minds go from hyper active to sedentary in seconds, and refocusing takes more willpower than Marty not stopping to say hello to a student in the halls. So where will we get our art? What museum will travel with us throughout the day? No framed painting or 600 pound sculpture can do that. Well, Gen Z has already provided an answer: clothes. Clothes, shoes, even cars, are the traveling museums of our generation. Custom clothing and shoes have started to make appearances in everyday life. Art has fallen off the walls of our parents’ homes and splattered itself all over our clothes, phone cases, computers, shoes, hydroflasks. It is our unintentional, yet highly effective, solution to a problem we’ve yet to recognize. Even with access to every great piece of artwork at once via the internet, we are still able to subconsciously recognize that it’s not the same thing.  

There is something very human about surrounding ourselves with art. It sends an outward message about who we are, and it allows us to make connections based on common perceptions of beauty. This idea of painting ourselves with the colors of our hearts and minds is just starting to gain momentum, but just imagine how much more interesting that post-test silence would be if each student was their own art exhibit. Imagine the simple pleasure we could derive from a pair of painted jeans or markered-up shoes. Imagine what joy lies in the ability to carry artwork out into the world for others to enjoy: each piece as unique as the soul who travels with it. 

Photo Credit: Margaret Choe