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Be the Artist 2023 Asks the Question, “But Is It Art?”

It is hard to believe another summer is practically here, which means another set of Be the Artist ideas to keep your creativity and appreciation of art fresh.

In the past, I have covered classic artists from all over the world, contemporary groundbreakers, animators (like last summer’s series), designers, and some who won’t fit into any box.

We have tackled sculptors, painters, graphic designers, and fiber artists. There are still plenty more serious fine artists out there to look at, but we won’t be looking at any of them this summer.

This year, we will feature some works and techniques many may know well, but many others will ask the question, “Yeah, but is it art?!”

It is a quandary that has continued through every generation, and is a very simple way to tackle the much bigger question: “What is art?”

Well, that question can be as simple as the opinion of the viewer, just like asking what the best genre of music is. It can be as complicated as the essay of an art critic, as to whether something is deemed true art or simply a craft, commercial project… or pretentious and lazy trash.

Sometimes it is the materials used that draw criticism. Velvet or cotton cloth instead or paper or art canvas is a good example. Other times it can be the technique that gets a laugh, as with “inking” or “tracing.” Can massed produced art with “remarques” be considered originals? Mostly, however, it can be something we see every day that we forget is the result of someone’s imagination and effort, be it a labor or love of a steady paying job.

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The ideas for this year’s Be the Artist collection will focus on some familiar forms of expression that each of us might have seen hanging in a diner, on the table at a garage sale, lining the sidewalks of an old historic drive, or hanging in your closet.

It will be up to each of us to determine whether the original products are “real” art. The finished product of each just might become an entirely new work for our own collections.

Elvis, clowns, exotic landscapes, and more… all on velvet! But it is art? Photo collages: Lisa Tate images via Public Domain and Pinterest

The series begins in two weeks and runs every other week through the summer months. This gives us plenty of time to enjoy a creative, maybe crafty, or maybe kitschy endeavor. The first of these will be one of the most famous, most ridiculed, and even most celebrated types of “low-brow” art forms: the velvet painting!

This might be the furthest from “serious art” there is, but it is well-known and instantly recognizable. Above all, it is fun! That is what this 2023 Be the Artist series is all about.

You have two weeks to find some scrap velvet—or felt—and get ready to add to the world of velvet Elvis lore.

Creativity and art are all around us, but it isn’t always instantly recognized as such. Here’s hoping once this summer is done, we will be able to look around at pretty much everything we see and appreciate the design and work behind it… whether or not you deem it to be “art.”

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This post was last modified on May 26, 2023 5:37 pm

Lisa Tate

Lisa Kay Tate is a veteran feature writer with nearly 25 years experience in newspaper, magazine and freelance writing. She and her husband, a history and world geography teacher, live on the edge of "New Texico" where they keep busy raising their two geeklings and sharing space with their dog, Sirius Black, and cat, Loki.

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