Artist as Culture-Maker Part 2: Changing Our World

The passing of Steve Jobs has had me thinking about his influence on my world.  Besides my piano, my MacBook is the primary instrument upon which I express my art and plan my ministries.  Every day, my daughters listen to music and play games on their iPods.  Almost every recording project I’ve ever been a part of used technologies enabled by an Apple computer, from sequencing to recording to virtual instruments.  My son regularly accesses the internet, finds driving directions, texts, and takes photos with his iPhone (he also calls people too).  Most of the books I read are designed on a Mac, and most of the photos I see are digitally manipulated on software originally designed for the Apple platform.  A few weeks ago at our Sunday church service, we showed a very touching movie clip from the Pixar film, Up.  My film major son regularly edits video on industry-standard software on his Mac tower.  My daughter Rachel is designing some amazing anime on a Wacom tablet controlling a Mac.  People purchase my music on iTunes.

In my last post, I presented a definition of the word culture taken from Andy Crouch’s book, Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling.  Culture is “what we make of the world,” and it implies two things: (1) The things that we actually make; and (2) What we make of it, i.e., how we make sense of the world around us.  The argument in my last post is that artists are culture makers, in that we make things, but also we help people make sense of their worlds as well.

Steve Jobs was such a person, in that he was behind so many things that changed our culture.  He developed the modern personal computer and popularized the WYSIWYG graphic interface (I still remember decades ago trying to convince some DOS users of the benefits of a mouse and an icon-based interface).  That alone revolutionized the print industry with desktop publishing, photography with digitally altered photos, and the motion picture and music recording industries by drastically changing the way we record and edit both music and film.  Because of the development of CGI through Pixar, he helped reinvent the film industry, especially the animated film genre.  The development of the iPod and iTunes completely changed the music industry (remember CDs?) and is currently changing the book industry as well (remember books?).  Not to mention that Apple has been on the bleeding edge of industrial design for 25 years.

And his worldview which was the subtext through all of these innovations can be summed up in two words: Think Different.  Indeed, he encouraged and modeled a culture of contrarianism, and was an icon for creativity, artistry, nonconformity, and out-of-the-box thinking for an entire generation (although opponents would also accuse Macaholics of snobbery, elitism, and faddishness—and I have to admit, such accusations are often warranted).

In my opinion, Jobs’ legacy goes far beyond the innovations he helped birth.  We see the world differently, think about the world differently, even interact with the world differently, because he helped make it so. Far beyond the technologies he envisioned, Steve Jobs was a culture-maker.

And that is the way it should be for all artists. Through our attempts at creativity, we should strive not just to make things but to help people make sense of the things of this universe as well.

As artists, we have the ability and the calling to be culture-makers.  And as Christ-followers, we have the opportunity to leave an eternal legacy as well.  While we might not have the global impact that Steve Jobs had, what we do really has  implications that reach far beyond this world, into eternity.  And eternity is a long time.

The question then is this:  How will you change your world through your art and life?

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3 thoughts on “Artist as Culture-Maker Part 2: Changing Our World

  1. First off, I really enjoy your blog. When I search faith and art in google, there is not much but I am glad I was lead to your blog. You discuss things that I am interested in that I believe relate to all art mediums. You really reach my soul when you discuss being an artist and a Christ follower, because I thought that these 2 identities were separate. God has really made you a mouth piece.

    The question that you ask, I really do not know the answer. I know now that God is leading me to lead a group of artists and ask these same questions. Like my friend said, “there are a lot of closeted Christians out there.” Think of how impactful the art ministry would be if we allowed ourselves to be known…

    The stigma around being a Christian artist is that people expect the work to be boring and ignore things like death or injustice and themes around the dark stuff. But the point you brought up about art is a culture maker and influences people’s lives is perfectly true. It is also true to ask ourselves when we explore these areas the “how” question of how will this bring glory to God? How will this piece of art open someone’s eyes and in God’s arms?

    All through theatre school I heard the phrase “art imitates life”, and I never really got it. But it almost seems to make more sense that life imitates art. The first thing that happened to the world was that it was created by God…

    As I continue to grow in Christ and as an artist I will continue to seek guidance from God, the ultimate craftsman.

    Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I look forward to seeing you grow your blog as well, and further the dialogue of faith and the arts. Blessings to you all in Calgary!

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