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The Arts →
The word "art" derives from the Latin ars, which can be translated "to arrange". Taking the broadest view, art is a generic term for the product of creative human activity. Whenever a person makes something primarily for aesthetic reasons, he or she is certainly creating a work of art. Another definition of art is anything made for the purpose of being experienced as art. There are many other uses of the word art, but all are related to its Latin root.
There is substantial disagreement about a precise definition of “arts”. The plural form, arts, indicates that a broad sense of the word art should be used. The arts generally refers to myriad types of art. Types of activity considered to be an art vary from culture to culture and over the course of time. In academia, the arts are usually grouped with the humanities. There is significant overlap between what is included with the arts and what is included in the humanities, however neither is entirely a subset of the other.
Types of Art →
A painting hanging in a museum, or a sculpture in a park is clearly art. But other types of art are not so obvious. A flask of perfume, flower garden or a rock collection can all be considered art; they are all things that are created, changed, or selected to be appealing or express meaning.
Any attempt to sub-categorize art necessarily includes arbitrary distinctions. Nevertheless, it is commonly done. One particularly controversial group is the fine arts. Some reject the whole idea of “fine” arts as too elitist. Painting, classical music, and sculpture are generally included in the fine arts by those making the distinction. The visual arts are forms in which art works are created primarily to be experienced visually. Examples of visual arts include drawing, painting, and photography. The decorative arts are generally defined as ornamental and functional works in ceramic, wood, glass, metal, or textile. Examples of decorative arts are furniture making, interior decoration, ceramics, and glass blowing. The performing arts include various type of theatre and opera, dance, and magic. The language arts are based in the use of language and include fiction writing, poetry, and play-writing.
Characteristics of Art →
Art is often considered to be a very subjective field because the perceived quality of a particular art work depends largely on the taste of the individual. While there is no defining characteristic of art, there are characteristics which are common to many works of art. One characteristic of some art is that it is open to different interpretations and communicates on different levels. Often a work of art demonstrates the creator’s facility or high ability. It can sometimes provoke an interplay between conscious thought and unconscious reaction. It typically requires creative perception or participation by both by the artist and the audience. Art is frequently aesthetic in nature or is pleasing to experience.
The earliest surviving art works are paintings on the walls of caves and carved bone. It is likely that early humans also sang and created other kinds of music. Since art is the product of creative human activity, it could be said that much human knowledge sprang from the pursuit of art. Artists work under the influence of other artists of the past and present. In a sense, there is a continuum of artistic expression stretching from the distant past to the present day.
The concept of what art is has continuously changed over human history. There are ongoing swings between inclusiveness and exclusiveness in what is and is not considered art. Likewise there is a balance between utility and aesthetic expression in even the most utilitarian pursuits. For example a rug is sometimes simply a floor covering with an entirely practical purpose. But since their invention, artistic designs have been woven into them.