Achievement and Quality: Higher Education in the Arts
General Observations on Quality, Achievement, and the Natures of the Art Forms
Art as a Mode of Thought
It is not by accident that we divide all academic disciplines into fields: the arts, the humanities, the sciences, and the social sciences. If all or any were the same, there would be no need for the separate designations.
- As a field, art uses a mode of thought oriented primarily toward making choices and arrangements among a few or many sets of materials to create something new or to produce a unique version of a work. It is focused on creation from nothing or from the basis of such things as choreography, designs, musical scores, scripts, and so forth.
- The artistic mode of thought is one way of working in the world, and it can be contrasted with other ways of working. It is not the same as research or scholarship in the sciences, humanities, or social sciences; nor is it the same as the application of technical means to various problems. Discerning, analyzing, defining, or applying technical means are only a few of the many critical elements of composition, design, or performance.
- At the highest levels, the artistic mode of thought requires advanced intellectually-based capabilities in compilation and integration to achieve specific purposes, often for a specific time and place. The artistic mode of thought and the capabilities it requires are applicable to many other fields and professions, but they are at the core of the arts disciplines.
- The artistic mode of thought is applied to work in the various arts disciplines. However, each of the disciplines is different. The disciplines remain different even when they are combined. Just as the artistic mode of thought has its own nature, each arts discipline also has its own nature.
- There are differences among the artistic mode of thought and other modes of thought, and differences among the arts disciplines. However, these differences do not preclude virtually infinite numbers of connections and combinations among modes of thought, the arts disciplines, and other disciplines. In principle, connections do not obviate differences; differences do not obviate connections; differences and connections reveal and enrich each other in applications of the artistic mode of thought.
- In some fields, a major purpose is to reveal internal complexities. Presentations of work reveal their intricacies and difficulties of achievement. In the arts, a typical goal is to hide the internal complexities. On the surface, works seem natural, effortless, inevitable. For this reason, a Mozart symphony can be appreciated on significantly different levels by a seven-year-old violin student and by a seventy-year-old conductor.
- It does not always take advanced knowledge in the arts disciplines to appreciate or even revere advanced application of the artistic mode of thought in the art forms. What is the mathematical counterpart of Shakespeares Macbeth, for example? Appreciation, therefore, does not equal in-depth understanding.
- In some fields, the goal is to produce results that can be replicated, or at least verified, by following the same research path or using the same facts. At the highest levels of achievement in the arts, the result is unique expression.
- In many fields or disciplines, work at the highest levels focuses aspiration primarily in terms of the field itself--mathematicians seek to achieve in terms that can be understood by professional mathematicians. In the arts, there are all kinds and levels of aspiration for specific works, in part because the arts are connected to so many things. The arts function both on their own terms and in terms of many other realms of thought, fact and action. A work is usually about many things at once--a play is dramatic history, process, history, psychology, philosophy, and so forth. Works of art can be small, multidimensional universes.
- In many fields, success is described in terms of developing explanations or verifications in terms of words or numbers. In the arts, even in forms that use words, success is calibrated in large part on the ability of the work of art or its presentation to reach places in human response that transcend verbal or numerical explanation.
Numbers and Evaluation in the Arts
Creative Work, Inquiry, Research, and Scholarship
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