Gentle Man Activities: Fine Art
by Teah Strandjord
Gentlemanliness is measured not by your intent, but by your behavior. And as the great American poet Emily Dickenson said, “Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes.” So what activities do men typically do? Watch sports, fix cars, grill brats, drink beers, shoot stuff. Yes, this sounds manly to me, but a gentleman, well-rounded and versatile as he is, will balance his selection of manly doings with an appreciation for the finer things in life. More specifically, the modern gentleman participates in the fine arts.
The arts have been a deeply important part of human life for all of known time for a reason... they enrich our lives and minds, and give us the most profound mode of communication (heralding revolutionary passions, the preservation of history, expressions of love, simple meanings of human life, and grand attempts to capture the etherial). Embrace the classic, statement making, thought provoking, beauty inducing sentiments of the fine arts, otherwise you are merely beastly, barbaric, and everything but a gentleman. (So, yes, I have an opinion on the matter).
Let Us Begin… Local Museums and Arty Memberships
There are many ways for you to begin your journey into the wonderful world of aesthetic awareness. If you haven’t yet, visit your local art museum, opera company, orchestra, or ballet production. Better yet? Grab a membership or join a young professionals group at one of these institutions, which grants you access to educational events, special performances and lectures, social functions such as cocktail parties and galas, and a community of like-art-minded sophisticates as yourself. Below is a list of some noteworthy groups in major US cities, highlighting the many opportunities for you to find your niche. You don’t live in one of these cities? Head to Google to find similar groups near you, because they do exist:
Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Minneapolis) - The Circle
The Minnesota Opera (Minneapolis) - Tempo
The Minnesota Orchestra (Minneapolis) – Crescendo Project
The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago) - Membership
Museum of Contemporary Art (LA) - Contemporaries
Let Us Continue… Global Museums, Art Buying, & Art on TV
In addition to local visits and memberships, the world is full of experiences for the manly doer taking on the au courant world of art appreciation. Take a trip to New York City and peruse the halls of the Met, the Gugghenheim, MOMA, or the Frick. Hit up the opposite American coast to see the Ghetty in Los Angeles. If your passport and wallet don the means, book a flight to Paris and see the great works at the Louvre.
And best of all, the art world is the spectatorship that keeps on giving (because you can take it with you and hang it on your wall). Buy art if you have the means: the real deal, a print, or a coffee table book of art. Hotter yet, attend a Sotheby’s auction (whether you plan to buy or not).
Finally, I understand that some of us are either geographically challenged (live in Timbuktu?), limited in economic ability to buy tickets, memberships and pricey pieces for the living room wall, or maybe just too glued to the boob tube to make a change this big. There is an answer for you, too: TV and Internet.
Tune into Work of Art on Bravo, or the BBC Culture Show. Visit the NPR website page: Art and Design. If you need to learn a little before stepping onto the scene, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art website for thorough educational resources, and discover an art history timeline or read thematic essays. Finally, check out Let’s See: Looking at Art with Peter Schjeldahl, where The New Yorker’s art critic narrates an audio slide show to accompany many of his columns in the magazine (like a piece on Degas and his Nudes).
Let Us Conclude…
Fine art is a vast landscape. Between classic, neo-classic, romantic, modernist, post-modern, oil painting, watercolor, photography, film, ballet, architecture, symphony, opera (I'm out of breath), and the rest that I haven’t mentioned, you have a lot to choose from. There are clearly many ways to get involved and do something, as Dickinson suggests, to make your behaviors cultured and art-minded. But however you get there, walk through the Met with an opinion, and send me to the moon. Appreciate fine art, and refine your senses in ways that will define you as what you desire to be: a gentleman.
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