Illustrations by Quentin Blake
How do you begin to understand the experiences, struggles, and emotions of another person, or group of people? We are all separated by our very own being, but we come together through common bonds. [inlinetweet]The way art works to build empathy is subtle, almost invisible, but vital to building a balanced society[/inlinetweet].
Creativity is fundamental in expressing emotion. It allows others to glimpse into our lives, momentarily touching onto something that belongs to us and us alone. It acts as an anchor for our previous feelings, as dress rehearsals for events to come, and sometimes digs deep into things we perhaps will never experience.
The arts allow for a common ground, a place where language and the ability to communicate are optional. They bring society together, allow for open dialogues on difficult issues and act as an interface into other people’s worlds, increasing our empathy towards one another. Humanity shares more in common than we care to acknowledge. Art brings that out.
The Nightingale Project, commissioning works by Sir Quentin Blake into mental health services, is a perfect example. It doesn’t just allow the residents to be transported out of their institutions regardless of their conditions, but brings the public in to share an intimate moment with a reality that they may have not known about (or may have chosen to ignore). This impact made all that more potent by Quentin’s timeless and instantly recognisable style which highlights a rich understanding of humanity.
But empathy isn’t just for individuals and not-for-profits. Large corporations have also started to embrace the arts as a means of expression.
Deutsche Bank’s Art Works aims to challenge perspective, Simmons & Simmons bring the contemporary world into their space to allow their workforce and clients to keep in tune with the society they serve, inclusion week at KPMG showcased Shahid Bashir’s photography to explore the misconceptions of corporate diversity and The Bank of Canada goes one step further in identifying the arts as an agent in building stronger economies, leading to a virtuous circle (enriching society will help the Bank generate wealth for itself, which in turn will help enrich society…)
In a world plagued by stereotypes and media manipulation, our societies’ creative output keeps us grounded and balanced. These forward thinking corporations have understood the need for creativity to communicate their values, open dialogues with their workforces and clients, generate value and keep their finger on the pulse of what society is really thinking.
Going forward it will become increasingly important for larger institutions and our government to embrace (and invest) in creativity, not just as a luxury, but as a necessity to help their own company’s flourish (and in turn society flourish) in an increasingly difficult economic environment.