Kirsten Gay participated last week on behalf of Age of Artists at the Inauguration of the The Peace Maker-Franklin-Emerson Circle. This was the first formal meeting for this group whose purpose is to enhance the United States of America in the eyes of the world by promoting a cultural conversation. The circle was held in the home (Historical Museum) of Ralph Waldo Emerson. At Age of Artists we are grateful to be part of this emerging effort. As a cross-national community with members in multiple European countries as well as the United States we feel much obliged to the idea of a spiritual, intellectual and practical transatlantic collaboration and friendship.
Such collaboration we can find in the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson. A couple of years after his trip to Europe, he gave a speech with the title The American Scholar (1837) that Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. described as the “intellectual declaration of independence”. At a time when the United States were still under much European influence and striving for an own identity such a declaration was a necessity. In The American Scholar Emerson describes three main influences for the scholar; nature, the mind of the past (which for him was literature and the arts), and to act with courage in and interact fearlessly with the world to make a broad range of experiences. He suggested with those three influences constantly in place, man is elevated to become one with mankind.
Forty-four years earlier Friedrich Schiller wrote the Letters Upon The Aesthetic Education of Man (1793) in which he notes; “Sapere Aude! (Dare to be wise!) A spirited courage is required to triumph over the impediments that the indolence of nature as well as the cowardice of the heart oppose to our instruction.” Both Schiller and Emerson, who got in touch with German Idealism during his travels, knew such a development is only possible one person at a time and it requires Muth (courage). For man to become one with mankind each individual must refine their character. For Schiller this refinement is done through the arts; “Art, like science, is emancipated from all that is positive, and all that is humanly conventional; both are completely independent of the arbitrary will of men.” And he suggests “Let the artist endeavor to give birth to the ideal by the union of the possible and of the necessary. Let him stamp illusion and truth with the effigy of this ideal; let him apply it to the play of his imagination and his most serious actions, in short, to all sensuous and spiritual forms; then let him quietly launch his work into infinite time.”
“I call beauty a social quality”, Edmund Burke commented in his influential aesthetic treatise” A Philosophic Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757). Burke argued that beauty elicits the feelings of love that are the foundation of society. Similarly Schiller develops an ideal of beauty into an ideal for humanity: “By beauty the sensuous man is led to form and to thought; by beauty the spiritual man is brought back to matter.” This balance will always be an aspiration, an ideal state that can never be reached yet “on the other hand, if we have resigned ourselves to the enjoyment of genuine beauty, we are at such a moment of our passive and active powers in the same degree master, and we shall turn with ease from grave to gay, from rest to movement, from submission to resistance, to abstract thinking and intuition.”
Both, the works of Schiller and Emerson are today, more than ever, relevant in addressing challenges that are more and more frequently global tasks. Methods for addressing issues in a linear fashion do not work anymore for challenges single businesses, individual science disciplines and local societies face in a globalized, digitized, single world. This is why our mission at Age of Artists is to learn from creative disciplines and apply our findings to create better outcomes for business and society. Our motivation rests on three pillars:
- Challenges in a global society of individual people: making progress with wicked problems. Many challenges in the world are extremely complex. Success in addressing them as a global society is more likely when an artistic mindset and processes are applied.
- Future of organizations and leadership. The term business in its original, epistemological sense means to be in good company for mutual benefit. To survive, organizations need to evolve “back” to this original idea, as many of the key themes that define the future of organizations and their leadership are dependent on cross-disciplinary and cross-company cooperation, constant innovation and the balancing of multiple forces, needs, demands and targets. Much of what this evolution requires can be found in the arts.
- Artful living. People who spend more time with art and/or apply an artistic attitude establish multiple focuses, perspectives and viewpoints. The German word allgemeinwissen, or the French culture générale that already carry the idea of culture within and that both mean “broad knowledge”, are good synonyms for this. It is good to broaden one’s skill set and expertise towards what is demanded today, but it also offers an alternative to the dominant idea of a linear career and restricted life that comes with it.
As a half-serious comment we can say the aspiration for Age of Artists is to become the “Schiller Institute” (which already exists in many countries) for the world that brings beauty to business, not just as a “nice to have but a must have” as designer and author John Maeda stated when proposing to bring education from STEM to STEAM (where the “A” stands for the Arts). “Art is the future of knowledge”, Chus Martinez commented when she was a member of the core team for Documenta 13, the famous art exhibition that takes place in Germany every couple of years. One simple sentence that manifests itself as a great slogan for what we strive for; literature, learning curricula and methods and tools derived from art for better outcomes in business and society. The time has come to put Emerson’s and Schiller’s ideas into relevant business practice.
- Ana de Freitas Boe (2011), “I Call Beauty a Social Quality”: Mary Wollstonecraft and Hannah More’s Rejoinder to Edmund Burke’s Body Politic of the Beautiful, Women’s Writing, 18:3, 348-366
- Chus Martínez in: Unexpress the Expressible, 100 Notes – 100 Thoughts No075, Hatje Cantz 2012, quoted from ID Factory