ARTH101 Study Guide

Unit 2: Who Makes Art – Process and Training

2a. Describe the role of the critic

  • How do critics shape conversations around art?
  • What is the role of criticism in the understanding and appreciation of art?
  • What informs the opinions of critics?

In the social world of art, critics play an important role in shaping and refining the concepts we use to talk about art precisely and in contemporary debates about art. Curators create prose to unify specific exhibitions, and historians trace the influences on art across time and culture, but critics are the ones who hone the concepts and arguments that the people who take part in the discourse of art use. Critics debate the relevance of art, its cultural status, its quality, its meaning, and other aspects that are important to the conversations that happen in the world of art.
Example: Critics are not the only people who engage in art criticism. Artists can also be a part of the "game" of art criticism. Gabriel von Max's painting "Monkeys as Judges of Art," from 1889, satirizes the role art critics play. What do you think the artist might be saying about art criticism?

To review, read The Artistic Process.

2b. Describe the role of the artist

  • What are some ways social institutions promote creativity?
  • Is talent the main requirement for being a successful artist?
  • Are traditional arts considered creative?

While it is true that anyone can do creative things, usually, an artist is someone who has gone through a period of intensive study and training to refine their skills. Remember that many famous artists are self-taught since they engage in their own systematic methods of self-learning. But even in these cases, this learning depends on the formalization of artistic knowledge.
During the Middle Ages, artists honed the skills of their trade by participating in craft guilds. Students later attended prestigious institutes of artistic learning, such as the Royal Academy of Arts (founded in London in 1768) or Parson's School of Design (founded in New York in 1896), or the Julliard School (founded in New York in 1905). Many of today's artists learn from their compatriots, who disseminate their skills via YouTube channels and online tutorials. The period artists need to perfect their skills and artistic techniques is as true of the oldest, most traditional arts as the most contemporary art forms. Long periods of practice are required to achieve a high level of proficiency in making artwork.
To review, read Artistic Training Methods and The Artistic Process.

2c. Discuss the social world of art

  • What are some examples of art's "gatekeepers"?
  • How accurate is the idea of artists as "lone creative geniuses"?
  • Are commercial art galleries required for art to be important in society?

When we think about art casually and intuitively, we may believe art is an object of some kind, something more creative than practical. But we live in societies and cultures that have formed large complex social worlds around art, which give it special status. We do not typically think about the snowperson we sculpted in our front yard during a snowstorm as art or the shoes we cleverly matched with our outfit, but these are examples of creative activities we perform every day.
Art usually implies artistry which implies training, where the artist is exposed to particular traditions of creativity that formalize key concepts and values. The idea that artists have a kind of inner genius that propels them to create is a relatively recent myth, only a few hundred years old.
Expert voices are organized to communicate why the public should care about the significance of art, whether it is to announce a new film, art exhibit, or band that has reunited for a tour. Film and music critics and art curators are examples of the cultural gatekeeper role. This unit introduces ideas about the social world of art and how it informs our sense of its importance and institutionalizes knowledge about the arts, the knowledge artists study during their period of formal training.
To review, read The Artistic Process.

Unit 2 Vocabulary

Be sure you understand these terms as you study for the final exam. Try to think of the reason why each term is included.

  • craft guilds
  • creative
  • critics
  • cultural status
  • curators
  • formalization
  • gatekeeper
  • inner genius
  • meaning
  • quality
  • relevance