What’s Art Got to do With it?

What’s art got to do with it? The Role of the Arts in Development.

The idea that spiritual values are critical to human advancement, long recognized by the great majority of humanity, is increasingly accepted by secular development specialists. The global action plans that came out of the major United Nations conferences … have helped shift the dominant view of development from that of a top-down, technically and economically driven process to one in which people and communities increasingly define and take responsibility for their own advancement. And many of these plans explicitly take note of the importance of spiritual values.
– “Perspective: Spirituality in Development,” published in One Country

Development can be viewed as an organic process in which non-material vision for the betterment of the world is expressed and carried out in the material. The document from which the paragraph above is excerpted also describes the need in all human endeavors for a worldview inspired by the understanding that human beings are fundamentally spiritual. Thus, universal principles that resonate with the human soul “provide an enormous motivational power for sacrifice and change.” The world’s peoples will therefore be much more inclined to support policies and programs that emerge from the development of policies based on unifying spiritual principles than they would programs based on a purely material conception of life.

The arts have a vital role to play in the process of placing spiritual principles at the heart of development. With their ability to engage both minds and hearts, they can help create one of the most important aspects of change and growth — shifts in perception. Through their essential ability to relate and harmonize the spiritual and the material in human experience, the arts can greatly assist in the wider application of such vital spiritual principles as unity in diversity; equity and justice; equality of the sexes; trustworthiness and moral leadership; and independent investigation of truth.

The arts can also help foster among leaders and laypeople alike a deeper recognition of and reflection upon the role that such principles can play in the advancement of individual and collective progress. And they can serve the more immediate and practical goal of facilitating education, learning and creative thinking in any human endeavor.

In their many facets, which encompass and embody every aspect of human experience in our diverse world, the arts can also help translate understanding into effective and productive action by inspiring and generating the most valuable resource the human family has: personal capacity, and its application to making our world more just and sustaining for everyone.

In our increasingly interdependent world, development efforts require agreed upon core universal values – spiritual principles – and a vision of a world community, unified around these values (such as the oneness of humanity), in all its rich diversity.