Art A Way Of Life - Melvin E. Haggerty - Community Art Education

Some tidbits from the 1935 volume Art A Way Of Life by Melvin E. Haggerty:

"Art is a way of life" is a simple statement of short and familiar words. It expresses a way of looking at life that is very old in the history of thought. If it now seems strange it is because we have permitted art to become divorced from the ordinary activities in which men [sic] engage and its cultivation to drift into the hand of specialists from whom the mass of mankind is separated as by a chasm. In recent times this chasm has become very broad and very deep. To men [sic] absorbed in the work of the world artists appear to be a cult and their work and conversation seem esoteric and almost mystical. To artists ordinary folks appear ignorant and unappreciative, and very often their thinly veiled contempt for plebeian tastes has led them to caustic expression. This dissociation is artificial; it is injurious to art and impoverishes life.

[Major snip]

[art as a way of life] sees that as the experiences of life multiply, new and varied purposes arise that call for the invention of new objects and new forms of expression and that these, in turn, vastly increase the possibilities of enriching life...This elemental reality that binds into a single pattern all the varied arts is more important for the philosophy of education than is the stress so often laid upon the differences that superficially separate one kind of creative work from other kinds.

[Major snip]

We have assumed a way of looking at art that permits no gulf between the simple arts of life and the so-called fine arts. It sees all as man's [sic] more or less successful efforts to create things that increase the comforts, the efficiencies, and the pleasures of living.. This view cherishes not even the ethically tinged distinction between good art and bad art.

[Major snip]

The distinction between creation and appreciation is not one between activity and passivity but rather one among different kinds of activity. The realization of this fact should emphasize the essential unity of art experiences.


This booklet is the theoretical foundation for the the Owatonna Art Education Project, or as Haggerty puts it, "a simple statement of the point of view from which the project proceeds." We don't know much else about the project, but a nice description is here: Amazing art education in an ordinary place. It was clearly part of the now sadly, neglected progressive impulse to integrate the arts into daily life at the individual and community level. More research is underway by LeisureArts to see what can be recovered from this amazing experiment in community art education. Any pointers to more information about the project, its participants, and Haggerty is appreciated.