“Why Does Art Matter?” by Jonathan Montgomery

The following article appears in the first edition of Turn Out, a new zine of poetic journalism edited by Ellie Swensson of Boulder Writers Warehouse.  The bi-monthly (every other month) publication is funded by the City of Boulder Office of Arts + Culture, and aims to give exposure to local creative projects and events.  This edition also includes work from Janelle Fine on The Local Theatre Company, Alexis Cooley on SMiLE graffiti, and Katie Dyer on MOTUS Theater.  You can find copies at the Boulder Writers Warehouse, the Boulder Public Library, The Dairy Center for the Arts, BMoCA, Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Cafe and Madelife. 


On Friday February 24th I went to the opening reception for the NoBo Art District’s 7th Annual Group Show at the Boulder Public Library.   I randomly asked various members of the packed crowd to answer the question:

Why does art matter?

And here’s what they said…

“Beauty has always been important to me. It gives me a sense of peace and calm. It’s also inspiring. It gives me a goal and a challenge… Why art matters? I think beauty matters.”

“I think artists can lead the world in a positive direction with their creativity and outside-of-the-box thinking.”

“Art is an expression of the soul of human beings and it needs to be out there so we can develop our fullest potential.”

“Art matters to me because I am able to access something that I can’t say in words. That I can’t say in a way I’m able to with color and light and form and shape and line.”

Art matters because it’s the beautiful side of everything.”

“It’s the soul… It’s creativity… It’s the soul… It’s the answer.”

“The art touches the soul and it touches the heart. It gets you where other things don’t and it can change you. Music is a universal language and so is poetry… then the message comes thru, and if it’s the right message at the right time… it can actually change you.”

“Why doesn’t it?”

“It brings joy and meaning to life, and it builds community and the self expression of all of us, the individual and the collective together.”

“It’s good for the soul really. Especially in our political climate. It makes you feel hopeful.”

“Art is really important because the world would be a very dark, cold, and unfriendly place without it. It would just be dreary. It’s something that brings light and energy to all of us by just seeing these beautiful things every day.”

“Other than just we need it? What would life be without it? Like Churchill said when they were talking about not protecting the arts during World War II – ‘then what are we fighting for?”

“To stick it to the man.”


“It’s the only thing that survives throughout history.”

“Art feeds the soul, and to me, it’s seeing things thru other’s perspectives.”

“Art matters because it’s a form of catharsis and a form of community building and a form of expression and it’s not just a luxury it’s actually what gives us identity and makes our lives worth living.”

“Art matters because it takes us out of the mundane. We spend most of our lives looking at our phones following Facebook. Art makes us be in the present, gets us out of our heads…”

“Art matters because it makes you stop and think about the world and see the world in a different way than you normally do and it’s a way that’s more at the level of the soul…”

“There is absolutely nothing more important than art, because it shows a reflection of what society is and what it can be, and it gives artists a platform to show the world as they would wish to see it…”

“Because we have feelings, and sometimes we need to know what other people feel and we need to know what we feel because other people tell us what they feel.”

“Art matters because it’s part of life, and life is for the living, and art keeps going on even after life ceases. So you remember the people that did the art.”

“I think that art heals. And it’s really important that we’re able to express ourselves.”

“It clears the path to whatever you want to do in your life.”

“Art matters because it is the essence of our humanity. It brings community together and allows us to express what makes us intrinsically human to one another for discussion, for healing, for collaboration, and for inspiration.”

“Because the world needs it. Without it the world is a vapid, soulless place.”

“Art saves lives.”

“Art matters because it’s alive like the people who create it, and it’s unique and individual and expressive and is an outlet for all of our deepest feelings.”

“Art matters because it embodies the essence of life. Everything that is good about life.”


This show, featuring work from 95 local artists in the Boulder Public Library’s Canyon Gallery, goes until April 7th.   If you have been convinced that art matters you should check it out.


Jonathan Montgomery is editor-in-chief of Boulder Poetry Tribe.  An MFA graduate from Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School in 2005, he’s the author of Pizzas and Mermaid and Taxis & Shit.  He currently works as an English professor at Front Range Community College.