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Art versus Culture

Shane Collens • 14 February 2005 • 293 words

As the heading suggests the two activities are connected but are clearly separate concepts of equal necessity, often confused.

Culture, on one hand, is the preservation and celebration of heritage with all its social manifestations including literary, visual and performing, arts and crafts. Art, on the other, is the development of ideas through inquiry and work beyond the patterns and traditions of the prevailing cultural environment.

The connection is obvious as we are born into the culture which naturally surfaces in our work and influences our thinking. Culture is the reference point from which art develops - a base if you like - or the baggage with which you travel. You may travel faster with less but welcome the comfort of its familiarity. You journey together.

Art itself has two paths of labour: in the case of visual arts the academic study in pursuit of definitive works is known as ‘fine art’ and the solution finding disciplines of applied arts are known as ‘design’.

A strong and influential culture, like definitive work, can be recognized for its multi cultural background, rich heritage and cross fertilization of ideas - look at survival in nature for example. It would seem reasonable to encourage the academic pursuit of art, through inquiry and work, in order to sharpen and strengthen a culture. The blind desire to preserve culture without the tools of discipline and creativity, will lead to its mediocrity, stagnation and demise.

We live in a time of accelerating developments in technology, global communication and social thinking. An institution for the development of “Art and Design” must be established to encourage high standards of inquiry and discipline to release the Culture from the repetition offered from mere study and blind preservation.


  1. The institution will better serve the community within a university - if not - at least under a ministry of ‘Arts, Science, Technology and Tertiary Education’ to clearly distinguish from the focus and purpose of a ministry of ‘Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs’.

  2. Whilst I make reference above only to visual arts, my personal discipline, I will assume the same thinking applies to performing and literary arts which I enjoy but not practice.


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