A Sense of Community in the Arts

communities already exist

communities already exist (Photo credit: Will Lion)








There is a natural phenomenon within the arts community where artists generally only interact with similar artists—painters talk to painters, dancers talk to dancers, musicians to musicians and so on.  But why is this so?  I think that branching out and seeking inspiration from a variety of resources is key to creating highly original work.

Of course, there are the obvious reasons: similar lifestyles, similar challenges, and similar pools of knowledge from which to share. On some levels, I get it. As a performing musician who has spent the past seven years steeped in music school and conservatory, I understand why we gravitate to others like ourselves.  However, I wonder if in some way that this may be hurting us or stifling our creativity? When musicians or any other kind of similar performers spend so much time around each other, how much truly original work can be generated?

For example, when only musicians hang out together, both professionally and socially, the strongest source of input into their artistic lives may only be other musicians. In fact, it gets more narrowly defined than that.  It is my experience that horn players stick together, violinists stick together, woodwinds, low brass, etc.  It is really common. Sure there will always be exceptions to the rule, and this is not an absolute truth (very few things are).  But what is important here is to realize that this is the case in many performing arts settings.  I call this social condition, cultural insulation.

Why is this a negative thing?  Well, for a while it is actually not a negative influence. When performers are first to learning their craft, it is good to be around others learning the same thing. According to constructivist theories on learning, a process called scaffolding takes place where the learner joins together bits and pieces of information from various sources to make a mental construct about the subject being learned.  For an (elementary) example, if I learn from Joe that I need soil to grow plants, and I learn from Jane that I need to water my plants, I have then learned that plants need both soil and water to grow.   The problem with cultural insulation is that once we have a working body of knowledge, we have problems when it comes time to stop modeling others and make our own artistic decisions.

Throughout my time in conservatory, I saw time and time again hordes of talented young musicians all striving to be better than each other. Something you would expect to see in a conservatory right? The problem was, that because they were all mostly influenced by each other in this microcosm-music-society, the performances were all incredibly similar, reaching an almost homogenous level.  It was literally recital after recital of exactly the same thing. This sort of problem has been going on for decades in music schools, and I will bet that it similar in other performing institutions.


Once we know a good deal about the mechanics and technique of our performance area, then we should start thinking about how to use the tools we have learned to create original and inspiring performances.  This is key to the originality in the live performance.

Over the course of this blog, I’ll dig more deeply into why this is important for growth in our artistry. This is important for non-performing artists as well as it helps to create a richness and fullness in life.

There is so much out there for us to learn and enrich our lives and art by. I’ll help you think of creative ways to meet others, to invigorate your performances with new material and to make your life more well rounded by constantly absorbing ideas from the world around you.


Stay tuned,






  1. Mind of Andy

    You read my mind! Or.. I absolutely know how you feel 🙂
    I’m a musician too, and i see this cultural insulation more and more often..
    I will definitely stick around! keep it up 🙂

  2. monalisasurvives

    It’s very important to be able to relate to people on an artistic level – whether it may be poetry writing, music, painting, or even other recreational activities. Excellent blog, I really enjoyed your insight. Keep up the good work. Please visit http://www.mynutritioninsight.com for information and disease prevention and healthy food and drink recipes.

  3. Andrew Johnston

    I agree wholeheartedly. I’m not a performer, but I am a writer, and I save most of my admiration for visual artists. After all, they can do something very well that I can’t do at all.

  4. thewritingmom

    I – as a writer – completely agree with you. I draw significantly more inspiration from painters and musicians than I do from writers. I tend to look to other writers for support, technique and understand, but there are so many rich and exciting stories and viewpoints that I can only arrive at if I start from someplace completely other.
    Thanks so much for putting this out there.

  5. Nahed Omer

    Your article is very interesting. I will pass it to my daughter to read it.
    She loves painting.
    There is a quote by Pablo Picasso I like it most saying:
    “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

  6. exceedingspeed

    Great insights. Although you didn’t address actors or acting companies, I have seen the same dynamic there. Companies who rely on their stock performers over and over again begin to lose the magic that audiences hope to see on the stage. The performances may be good, but often the range and depth of character development flattens. Thanks for your post.

  7. Jnana Hodson

    It’s not just artists, John-Morgan. Try talking to scientists about what’s going on in anything but their specialized niche and you’ll find a similar lack of cross-fertilization.
    Maybe part of it is a consequence of the sheer volume of new material appearing in every field — there’s no way I could keep abreast of everything in poetry, literary fiction, journalism, or contemporary Quaker thought, even though I’m active in all four. Something has to give. So I’ve chosen a wider horizon over a more narrow detailed vertical focus. Maybe it’s a luxury of not being a university professor.
    I suspect another part has to do with individuals retreating to a commercial mass-media base when they’re not active in their own specialties. Thus, instead of going to a poetry reading, a violinist would likely go to a movie or turn on the TV. Ditto, the poet rather than attending the recital.
    We’re all the poorer for it, of course. Best wishes in your efforts to encourage wider interaction.

  8. Nicole Rogers

    That’s a very important point you make here. I’m a classical guitarist and so often it’s only classical guitarists that head along to a classical guitar recital.

    I too believe that mixing it up, with whatever form, genre or style, in terms of what you’re listening to, watching, reading, playing or who you’re playing with can only have positive benefits.


  9. Cafe

    Wow, really interesting post and it made me wonder if this is the same case with the blogging community. I remember on another blog post, someone asking whether like-minded bloggers tend to flock together and simply reinforce one another’s views and opinions. It’s probably true for the most part. It’s hard to branch out sometimes and try to delve into something different — a different topic, a different style of writing. But maybe it would help us learn and develop a more unique take on our own blogs.

    Anyways, going off on a tangent here! Without the pondering on the blog stuff, your post is very interesting on its own! Thanks for the great read 🙂

  10. littlecitybot

    yesssssss!! so much yes. isn’t the point of a community to be inclusive, to create a bond between like minded people? just because someone isn’t in the same field as you, doesn’t mean they aren’t like minded or that they won’t mesh with you. communities shouldn’t be exclusive!

  11. Daphne Shadows

    I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not and I know its only online and not actual person to person relation, but there’s a relatively new social media named WANAtribe that I’ve found recently. I found it via reading the posts of an author who’s blog I follow. Its geared towards all creative types (writers, artists, musicians, etc.), both professionals and newbies.
    WANA stands for “We Are Not Alone” and the creators are really sincere. Its only just growing but there are some really nice people there.
    I agree that we should branch out, meet other creative types. It breeds our own creativity, gives us different inspiration, and opens our eyes to all the people and potential around us. Plus its always nice to meet other creative types!
    Thanks for this post! 🙂

  12. toemailer

    I totally agree! How often is the subject matter simply about, say, other painters? We need to interact with the world if we are to be it’s most powerful voice.

  13. aparnauteur

    I agree with you. Although I love talking about writing (which I know is more of a craft) with fellow writers and discuss the nuances of the language, I also like the idea of talking about art as such, because deep down the desire to create something is what brought us into this field. Mingling with artists not necessarily of the same field would also clear our minds and probably give a fresh twist to our thought processes.

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