Time for Be the Artist 2020: Art With a Purpose

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From remembrance quilt to road signs, politics to promotional items, all art has a purpose—some more specific than others. Photo illustration: Lisa Tate

All art has a purpose.

Some art may be to challenge your sensibilities or imagination, other times it may provoke a certain emotion, and often it is to create something beautiful or new for the world.

The sixth summer of “Be the Artist” starts next week, and will look at art created for a specific purpose every other week through August. Sometimes it may be as a learning tool or to help heal. Even a simple inkblot pattern is a form of art, whether intentional or not. Other times the purpose may be to promote ideas and causes from WWI and WWII propaganda posters to political campaign signs and buttons through the ages.

Still, other artworks are done for advertising. Some of the most recognizable graphic art of the modern era includes movie posters, album covers, and commercial logos.

In addition to posters, the movie and television industry uses art both in front of and behind the camera, including art that helps filmmakers visualize a plot with the help of storyboard artists. Art is also used as a three-dimensional guide (maquette) to how a character, set piece, or prop will look.

Finally, there’s a very common, very important, but often overlooked form of art that we see everyday: art to instruct or inform. Everyone who has read an illustrated graphic on how to wash your hands or follow a medical procedure, followed a road sign, or read a map is looking at someone’s creative design used a visual tool.

Sections of the massive AIDS Memorial Quilt project on display in Washington, D.C. Image Public Domain

The series starts next week with a form of fiber art that has been used to remember victims of AIDS, to hide messages along the Underground Railroad, or even to document family history: message quilts.

In the meantime, check out some of the past “Be the Artist” series including last year’s “time-traveling” with the current trend of sketch cards and art sharing.

Call it commercial art, graphic art, propaganda, or studio art, art is everywhere. We use it every day in many ways, whether for entertainment or information.

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