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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Application Essay for the Master of Fine Arts

Here's the essay I wrote for the application to Webster University's Master of Fine Arts: Arts Management and Leadership program:


“Artistic” Leaders in Every Sphere

By John Grapperhaus

In the coming decades, the arts will increasingly impact philosophies and strategies in every area of culture. It is difficult to walk in clear objectivity about one’s own time and place. It is an even greater challenge to predict the direction of the arts in the up-coming decades. It is, however, possible to look at patterns of history and society to find present-day application. Ideally, we would use these observed patterns to logically predict the future. If we foresee the future with any accuracy at all, we are then in the position to live proactively: continuing on courses that seem wise and beneficial and pre-correcting courses that would appear to have a negative outcome. Responsible leaders in the arts will come to a place of greater influence in society, observing with discernment, guiding with strategy, and inspiring with vision.

As we find ourselves now completely in the twenty-first century, I believe our worldwide culture finds itself in the midst of a second Renaissance: a “re-rebirth”. The original Renaissance was a time of unprecedented creativity and discovery; a simultaneous quantum leap in the areas of art, science, technology, literacy, religion, architecture, and literature. Masters of every field embraced a boldness to push past the status quo and ask the question, “Where can we go that we have not gone before?” We are in position today, in an ever “shrinking” world, to experience exponentially greater breakthroughs. This is due, in part to the exponential population growth. This mathematical increase results in an increase of ideas, failures, successes, and advancements. This information age grants us instant access to a world of cultures, research, and critique. Ultimately, mankind is moving in the direction of becoming “artists”. We live in an immense community, constantly pushing for creativity. Every sphere of culture is demanding to see leaders with nonlinear thinking styles and asymmetrical solutions that open possibilities instead of merely closing the book on one problem at a time. Governments, businesses, institutions, and families will find high levels of impact if their ambition is to create and build something new rather than to only manage, continue, and control. The entities that are quickly able to adapt to this new model will find themselves in the kind of leadership that does not just shape an election cycle or fiscal quarter, but that builds for generations.

I believe groups and individuals of impact will be trained to operate using the principles of art: movement, pattern, variety, balance, emphasis, contrast, proportion, and unity. These are principles of beauty and order that holistically guide a work of art, and can also holistically guide all expressions of society. Individuals will also benefit from this approach. Career counselors and life coaches are working hard to help young and old to make sense of their lives. Applying these principles will empower them to paint a complete composition of their lives. “Artistic” leaders will look closely at each principle of art and analyze the implications they have for their personal lives and corporate direction. Here is a sampling of principles and their possible applications:

Movement

Movement is applied to an artwork to move the viewer’s eye though the piece. The piece will not be stagnant or claustrophobic, but the viewer’s eye is able to freely move from area to area, led by visual cues, such as diagonal lines. In the same way, world-changers will not resign themselves to a practical rut, but will consist of dynamic members and strategies. They will be open to unpredictable possibilities or “diagonal” moves.

Pattern

Leaders will be able to understand, manipulate, and submit to the principle of pattern. They will accurately interpret history and apply its lessons. There won’t be unchecked chaos, but strategic plans that are implemented, observed, and adjusted with scientific consistency.

Variety

A successful artist will effectively balance the repetition of pattern and the unpredictability of variety. Variety often works together with movement, providing highlights that catch the viewer’s eye in a field of pattern. Andy Warhol prints were often mechanical repetitions of products and celebrities. Each image would be almost identical with small inconsistencies in elements such as color. These inconsistencies cause the viewer to look more intently at the piece. They create visual interest. In the same way, dynamic leaders will achieve unpredictable highlights and adjustments to their rigorous plans.

Balance

A painting with asymmetrical balance may have two small shapes on the left side of the painting and one large object on the right side of the painting. The painting is aesthetically pleasing because, while the two halves are not a mirror image, the asymmetry does not leave us unsettled. The two small components counterbalance the one large component. One possible application of this principle has to do with leadership and the delegation of leadership. The president of an institution may have one area of emphasis, which is the key to the corporate vision. However, it is possible the president is neglecting other facets that are vital to supporting the vision. Balance can be achieved by raising up subordinate leaders who emphasize these other facets.

Unity

A song that is written with unity is a complete, whole, coherent piece. It holds to its own musical and poetic themes. It follows a key and a chord progression. If the piece modulates away from the original key, it is done at a logical point in such a way as to not distract the listener, but amplify the song’s theme. Unity means that everything about the song supports its emotional and literary meaning. The songwriter asks, “What is the most important thing I want to communicate through this song and what method can I follow to give its content the most impact?” If the song has impact, then the artist has a voice: a powerful message that is clearly understood. All leaders must find unity in their plans and labors in order to achieve a voice in society. Singleness of vision must be articulated by all people of impact. Any effort or resource that does not support the ultimate vision is fat that must be cut away.

In conclusion, we will increasingly see individuals that think like artists rise to the top of all spheres. Artists of life will see what is not there and call it into being. They start with a blank canvas and fearlessly apply their highest hopes.

3 comments:

scomom said...

Excellent, John. I was using this essay as an argument to include a faculty of arts and communication/media because of its effect on culture and society. Thanks!

John Grapperhaus: The Art of Intercession said...

Wonderful, Nancy! God's doing this thing. He's serious about it.

Amanda said...

This is not at all like my essay. I should show you mine sometime.