Neuroaesthetics and Art as an Experience

I learned a new word when I read The Washington Post's recent piece, "This Is Your Brain on Art:" neuroaesthetics. It's a new field that leverages brain-imaging and other tools of neuroscience to analyze the relationship between art and the brain. 

The article highlights some of the recent discoveries that have come out of this field, and the authors frame their findings in the context of a ballet performance. Why? Because many of the connections our brains make when we are taking in art have to do with the social, human, and collective experience we are having.

When we're watching a human performance among other humans, our capacity for empathy is heightened. We connect to the story and the experience of the performer and our fellow onlookers.  

brain-on -art

While dance is certainly art (and a form of art that I love), I couldn't help but think about the application of these findings to the visual arts, especially in the context of more and more research emerging on Millennial tendencies to want to "consume" or experience art socially. 

If there is both science and qualitative research to back up this shift toward a more collective art experience, what changes will we see in the art world? 

We have already seen a shift toward art purchases at art fairs vs. brick-and-mortar galleries. But how can institutions like museums and companies with corporate art programs drive social experiences that lead to deeper connections to art? 

Millennials certainly experience art in a different way than previous generations. We see art’s ability to serve a higher purpose - to drive social change, to have an economic impact on communities, to give a voice to those who are marginalized. Art that is authentic, impactful, and reflective of our collective human experience is not a passing trend. To many Millennials, it is the only art that matters. If art institutions (museums, art fairs, art schools) can tie art to the causes that we care about and facilitate programming around those causes, they might stand to increase engagement, especially among the younger generations.

Natalie Lemle