Art changes the world by virtue of being part of it. Art is. Of course, art can also be about the world, but primarily it is, in itself, an element within the world of lived experience.
Experience accumulated over time determines how we make sense of the world, and, by extension, what we do with our lives. Art provides the opportunity to examine and pay attention to the nature of habitual experience. For those of us who engage this opportunity, the nature of experience is questioned and often changed.
Art is the result of careful looking. It is impossible to pay close attention to all of the details of everything around us during the course of most days. Our activity tends to be goal oriented—getting breakfast made, getting the car fixed, getting the bills paid, getting our teeth cleaned, etc. Art provides an opportunity to slow down and appreciate details that just exist, that are not necessarily for something or toward some goal.
A society that supports the arts supports the cultivation of minds that are able to pay attention, to think and notice what's outside the box of habitual experience. Only then are there opportunities to make new boxes.
—Jessica Stockholder is an artist who has exhibited widely in North America and Europe. She is currently professor and director of graduate studies in sculpture at the Yale School of Art.