Core Exam Sample Questions
The core examination is designed to test the student's general understanding of concepts and materials implicit in the program of core courses (minor). The goal is to demonstrate an ability to relate general issues and concerns common to all the arts.
The Following Questions Represent the Types of Issues Assigned by Examination Committees During the Past Years (most recent questions are listed first).
- Consider this theory (modified from Tolstoy): The purpose of art is to communicate the mental state of the artist (be it an emotion, an idea, or otherwise) so that that mental state is accurately reproduced in the audience (be it listener, viewer, reader, etc.). As such, the sole or central determinate criterion in whether a work of art is good is whether (and the degree to which) the work reliably leads to an accurate reproduction of that state. Explore this theory. For example: Is the theory compelling? Why or why not? Is the theory viable? Does it run into problems, and if so, can they be solved? Note that the theory is meant to apply to all the arts, and so your exploration should at the very lease involve examples from theater, the visual arts, and music.
- Although the existence of art is evident all around us, justifying the existence
and purpose of art is no easy task. The justification of art is particularly pressing
when public money is being used to fund the production and dissemination of art works.
Some theorists have stressed the cognitive value of art works, others the sense of
community they may foster. However, there are people who think that those goals may
be achieved without the benefit of works of art, by other means (a general education,
community meetings such as church services, etc.)
How would you go about justifying the production and dissemination of works of art? Are there particular works in theater, music, literature, dance, or the visual arts that provide evidence for your view? As you outline your position, make sure you address what some previous theorists have said on this topic, and how your answer differs from or develops their ideas.
- Historically, artists have been, and still are, the target of censorship efforts, often because of objections to the moral message carried by their work. In ancient and contemporary writings, philosophical and not, we find, explicit or implicit, the notion that "if it carries an immoral message, it is not real art". If one agrees, one must conclude that depicting moral evil in a way that makes it attractive, softens the suffering that it causes, or dismisses goodness, is an unacceptable waste of artistic talent. One could agree that artists have the responsibility to adhere to moral norms, and that the artworld should police itself. On the other side, one could consider such self censorship as an unacceptable violation of artistic autonomy, and claim that art ought not to be evaluated in terms of moral norms. Evaluate these pro and con, including pedagogical and philosophical perspectives and offering examples from theater, music and visual arts.
- How does the study and knowledge of various/several/interdisciplinary fine arts influence creativity and the process of art making? In what ways have musicians been influenced by the study and knowledge of art and/or theatre? Similarly, how have theatre artists been influenced by art and/or music? In what ways have the study and knowledge of theatre and/or music influenced visual artists? Identify parallels or affinities among the arts that explain how each can influence the others. Are there some parallels among the arts that can explain how each can influence the others? Give examples from art, music, and theatre, along with a philosophical basis in your discussion of this question.
- Some people in our society consider the arts to be elitist. These members of our society may have a perception that they will not be sufficiently engaged in works of art and therefore do not want to “waste time” on attending artistic events. Why do some people hold this belief? What approaches might we take to remove this barrier to arts participation or attendance? Conversely, is it really important to attempt to engage society in the arts? If so, why?
- Some theorists have argued that knowledge about the context in which works of art are made is crucial to our appreciation and understanding of them; others have argued that such knowledge is not important to our engagement with art. How important is knowledge of historical context to artistic appreciation and understanding? What can one get from a work of art without knowledge of context? What might be missing? Is there an important distinction between knowledge of general historical context of an art work and knowledge of the history of the specific art form? Are there general answers to the aforementioned questions, or do the answers depend on the specific of art discipline? Use examples from theatre, music, and the visual arts, as well as making reference to philosophical theorists that you have studied in core classes.
- You have done artistic work in both the US and in Saudi Arabia—one country has been described as having a democratic and open society, and the other may be described as having a religiously-based society with strict traditions. While it may be that each country's aesthetic sensibilities are divergent, both countries have had disputes regarding controversial art. What is it about a work of art that might cause concern among citizens, government officials, funding entities/patrons, and other agents? Is there something inherent and unique in the arts that can cause outrage and controversy? Please address the issue of censorship of the arts, including self-censorship (especially in your own art work), as it relates to each country. Use examples from the visual arts, music, and theatre, and provide a philosophical basis for your answer.
- Explore the notion of collaboration within the arts. One significant characteristic of contemporary art practice is pan-artistic collaboration: musicians, visual artists , actors, directors, writers and many others with diversity of skill sets increasingly create products that include many forms of artistic expression. They reach beyond Western traditions for inspiration. Their collaboration often includes contributions and borrowings from literature, social science, hard science, humanities and other fields of study. To what extent might collaboration dilute the effect of one of the arts? Conversely, in what ways can all the engaged arts be enriched and magnified (the sum greater than the parts)? What, if any, precedents for this practice exist in the context of earlier eras? What may be motivating current trends of collaboration? Making use of examples from theatre, art and music, discuss the value to the art world of this notion. Be sure to develop a philosophical base for your discussion.
- A long standing debate in the arts as well as in philosophical discussion is the
relevance and stringency of rules in the production or performance of an artwork.
The extreme, opposing viewpoints can be stated like this:
a) Rules are binding: while breaking a rule may be acceptable, there is a heavy burden of proof on the artist to explain why the breaking of a rule is necessary to her artistic goals
b) Rules, any kind of rules, unless embraced by the artist herself, are unacceptable impositions on artistic freedom.
These positions are extreme, but can an intermediate position be justified? Explain, evaluating pro and con, by including pedagogical and philosophical perspectives and offering examples from theater, music, and visual arts.
- Background: The ontology of instrumental classical music is a thriving subject in aesthetics, with views ranging from the work as an eternal, abstract universal 'discovered' by the composer, to the work as an abstract structure of sounds that is 'indicated' by a particular composer. The ontologies of theater and of literature, as with any kind of performable, repeatable artwork, suffer similar difficulties of accounting for the stable as well as the variable elements in a work in such a way that we can correctly identify a work as an instance of X and not of a (perhaps similar) work Y. Question: The opera combines all these art forms into something not reducible to any of them. Would the ontology of opera therefore be a combination of the ontologies of music, theater, and literature, or something completely different and unique to it? As a test case: Does transplanting opera from its native milieu to East Africa have any effect on the ontology of the art form? Does an ontology of performance arts differ from the ontology of visual artworks?
- Everyone “knows” the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven, or the “Mona Lisa” or a play such as “Angels in America.” Yet, there seems to always be a lot to be learned about style, culture, expression, form, technique from revisiting such works of art. How does familiarity with a work of art affect our appreciation of it? Is it possible to approach a familiar work with sufficiently open mind so that new impressions can be experienced? Or, does the notion “familiarity breeds contempt” override the opportunity for new experiences? Be sure to establish a reasoned basis for your discussion. Develop a philosophical position for your discussion and make use of examples (perhaps other than the ones mentioned above) from music, art and theatre.
- Discuss the notion that the arts define culture. How can art be used to help people experience and come to an understanding of the world? Does knowing about art, or doing art help a person learn about the world, or refine skills that are useful in functioning in the world? In your response, address both contemporary and one historical culture, including music, theatre, and visual art in your discussion. Given your conclusions, provide a philosophical argument for how contemporary and future artists should consider their role in society.
- Works of art are often said to be evocative. An artistic experience may “evoke” special feelings and emotions, stimulate the recall of events, places, situations, or other memories on the part of the observer/listener. Many commentators observe that the arts often evoke sensations that cannot be described using conventional terms. How does an art work have such effect on a person? Explore the reasons why this phenomenon might (or might not ) be true. Using examples from visual art, theatre and music—and supporting your discussion with references to philosophers, discuss the evocative power of art.
- Art often appears in public places—town squares, lobbies of public buildings, on facades, performed in courtyards, etc. When designers and builders purposefully include something beyond the basic design as a “special gesture,” what might be the purpose? What is the role (or roles) of such public art? Is there something unique about the audience-artist relationship in public art? Is the experience one-to-one—uniquely between the artist and the spectator—or is it plural: between the artist and the entire audience? Does such art foster communication among the audience? Make use of examples from visual arts, theatre, music in your discussion, establish a philosophical base for your comments, and consider opposing points of view in formulating your response.
- One of the board members of your theatre company commented that "after we pay the bills, then you can go do your art." With that backdrop, please discuss the following: Many theorists have thought that there are important distinctions to be made between fine art on the one hand and popular art or mass art on the other. Opposing theorists have dismissed the attempt to distinguish these categories. Are there significant distinctions to be made between these categories? More specifically, are there differences between these categories that are relevant for criticism (i.e., evaluation, interpretation, and appreciation)? If so, how might one go about making these distinctions? How are these distinctions critically important (or why aren't they)? If you do not think the distinctions are significant, explain why the distinctions are still frequently invoked. Make sure that examples are drawn from art, music, theatre and that a philosophical base is established for your discussion.
- Bertold Brecht is quoted about the nature of art: "Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it." It might be supposed from that statement that art is not so much to be used to simply record what is happening in the world, but is to take a lead in developing new ideas that focus on the future of a society. If you feel that art is to be used to shape and develop the nature of society, discuss examples of that use of art. If you feel that art is to record and reflect society, discuss examples that support your position. Make use of examples of art, music, theatre as well as philosophy in your discussion.
- Texas Tech University has 11 colleges, one being the College of Visual and Performing Arts which includes visual art, music, and theatre. We think of these three disciplines as somehow “of a piece,” but is there any special value to conceiving them as unified? In what sense are they unified at all? Do any of these art forms actually challenge the conception that they share important properties? Discuss both philosophical and practical reasons on both sides of the question of the integration of the arts. (If it helps, you might think of yourself as a college administrator arguing before a board of regents that your university should or should not be organized along such lines.) Naturally, discussion of this topic will require consideration of works and processes that one finds across the disciplines of art, music, and theatre.
- Question: If art has a way of imparting knowledge that is exclusive to it, then the claim that art has a function to perform in society acquires greater weight. However, not only has the first claim been challenged, on the grounds that whatever art can teach, other means can do just as well if not better, but the idea that art has any function beyond satisfying the expressive desires or needs of artists has been questioned as well. Can art do something that is not achievable by empirical or theoretical work, or not learned from one's parents, by reading the news, or by simply living in society? If so, can all the arts do this equally, and equally well? If not, what is the function of art, if any? Consider and give examples of the various art forms (visual arts, music, theater) in your answer, and the philosophical discussion on the cognitive value of art.
- In these trying economic times, advocates are attempting to provide justifications for continued arts funding by arguing not only for their aesthetic value but also their utilitarian value in terms of how the arts improve society as a whole. Recently, law makers in Austin (who are very concerned with the outcomes of high-stake testing) have begun to discuss the removal of arts education in the public schools. Should the arts continue to be taught in public schools? Why or why not? In your answer, address (minimally) these three points: 1) the importance, if any, of the arts to a democratic/free society, 2) how/if the arts can be utilized across the curriculum, and 3) the economic value, if any, of the arts to the economy. Be sure to address music, visual arts, and theatre, along with a philosophical basis for your argument.
- In many cultures, a distinction is made between so-called “high/fine art” and “mass art,” or “court art” and “popular art.” Thus, in our own culture, classical and rock music are distinguished, as are opera and broadway musicals, Harold Pinter and Neil Simon, art films and Hollywood blockbusters, the paintings one finds in museums and sofa art, and sculptures by Michelangelo and figurines by Hummel. Is there something significant to such a differentiation? If so, and if it can be identified in any general way, what does it amount to? If not, then how is it bogus and why? (Alternatively, if there is no significant distinction, explain the common nature to both “kinds” of art—what do they all share that justifies the common grouping?) Either way, consider the relevance of your analysis to the general question of defining art. Be sure to address examples from theatre, visual art, and music in your presentation.
- The artworld seems to face a certain dilemma. Either: (1) every artwork is to be
interpreted and evaluated solely on its formal features—and as formal features per
se do not have ethical or political content, there is no basis to governmental or
other societal interference with art on ethical or political grounds (which is just
to say that art is autonomous); or else (2) every artwork is legitimately open to
being interpreted and evaluated on ethical or political grounds, and so there is
at least some potential and legitimate basis for governmental or other societal interference
with art on these grounds (which is just to say that art is not autonomous).
Explore this apparent dilemma, including why each “horn” of the dilemma might be considered troubling for art. Is the dilemma legitimate? If you believe it is not, construct a philosophical argument showing why it fails. If you believe the dilemma is legitimate, construct a philosophical argument for which of the two “horns” is the correct (or better) option, and make suggestions for how we should consider the role of art in society. In your exploration and argument, you should draw on particular examples from music, theatre, and the visual arts.
- “The abilities to create and to appreciate art cannot be taught, but they can be trained. Neither appreciating nor creating art is a rule-governed activity, and so it is not a skill that can be taught to someone who does not already have it. However, where one already has either ability, that ability can be trained, and so there may be better and worse artists as well as better and worse critics.” (This argument is taken from Immanuel Kant) If the claim above is accurate, what is the role of arts education? If it is inaccurate, why is it inaccurate, and why would anyone think otherwise? In your answer, be certain to provide a philosophical argument for your position and to employ examples from music, theatre, and the visual arts.
- Consider the following argument: In determining the meaning of a work—be it a painting,
a sonata, or a play—the creator's intention must play SOME role, whether as a matter
of determining the correct interpretation or of restricting the range of possible
valid interpretations. As such, any interpretation of a work that rests on something
the artist in principle COULD NOT have known is an invalid interpretation (such as,
for example, a modern feminist interpretation of Euripides' The Trojan Women). What
is (or should be) the role of the artist's intention as regards the meaning of a
work? How should we deal with anachronistic interpretations of artworks? Construct
a philosophical argument either criticizing or defending the view presented. In answering,
be certain to include particular examples from theatre, music, and the visual arts.
- Consider advantages, disadvantages, and issues encountered in multidisciplinary arts programs. Propose an educational model which, both ideally and practically, would arrive at the best solution regarding a disciplinary or multidisciplinary approach to the arts both in education and in professional performance. As you do so, comment on the following: What are the potential benefits (if any) of a multidisciplinary approach to the arts? What are the putative benefits of maintaining disciplinary lines between theatre, dance, music, and the visual arts? To what extent is it valid to require mastery in one discipline prior to incorporating another? How might one address the potential charge of diluting artistic mastery when engaging in multidisciplinary approaches? Consider these questions from the perspective of both an art educator and a performer. Be sure to establish a philosophical and pedagogical rationale for your answer and to include examples from art, music, and theatre.
- As computers and the internet make it possible to create art in a digital world, how does this affect the idea of the audience or viewer of that work? How does such an audience engage with the art so produced? What is better or worse about the experience from this new point of view as opposed to a traditional one? In particular, what aspects do live objects offer over digitized ones or vice versa? Please provide a philosophical rationale for your view and relate the question to the visual arts, music, and theatre.
- In each of the areas of art, music and theatre, identify important artists (if any) who use sexuality as an aesthetic ELEMENT IN SOME OF THEIR works. USING EXAMPLES FROM EACH DISCIPLINE, ILLUSTRATE how they go about doing this. What is the basis for such an aesthetic PERSPECTIVE? WHAT MIGHT BE THE MOTIVE FOR THIS ARTISTIC POSITION? How/why can sexuality be construed to be an aesthetic element rather than an issue of content? Explain how doing so may complicate existing ideas about using aesthetic criteria in judgment, interpretation, analysis, or evaluation of works. Be sure to present examples from each area as well as presenting a philosophical basis for such a practice.
- The theatre director Bertolt Brecht felt that his art could be used to create social change. Do current artists still believe this is possible? How do they define “social change,” and how do they go about instituting it through their work? Give examples from Visual Arts, Music and Theatre and give a philosophical basis for your answer.
- Discuss the purpose and standards of religious art. Is its purpose primarily didactic, propagandistic, ethical, inspiring or something else entirely? Offer a philosophical discussion of standards for religious art, for the purpose of determining whether non-religious art (secular art) and its media, styles and aesthetic standards can be appropriated for religious purposes. Do secular aesthetic standards require modification in order for secular art to be used in a religious context? Provide examples from theatre, music and visual arts, explaining whether they require different standards.
- Although the glass ceiling has thinned in the arts in recent decades, it has not disappeared. Has women's arts production historically dealt with gender matters more or less than men's has? Has it dealt with it in different ways? How does this compare to work being done today? Choose examples from art, music, and theatre and provide a philosophical view or views relevant to the topic.
- Arts education has become increasingly marginalized in our public schools (K-12). With No Child Left Behind's emphasis on standardized testing in the “core subjects,” often little instruction time is left for the arts. (Conversely, studies show that parents overwhelmingly want their children to participate in and be exposed to the arts.) What arguments can be made for increasing arts' instructional time? Are the arts useful in teaching the "core subjects"? Does such use minimize arts education's importance? What might be the consequences of further reducing or even eliminating the arts in our schools? Please include examples from music, theatre, and the visual arts in your answer, along with a philosophical basis for your answer.
- How does the study and knowledge of the arts influence creativity and the process of art making? For instance, have musicians been influenced by the study of art and theatre? Similarly, have theatre artists been influenced by studying art and music? Or, have visual artists been influenced by the study of theatre and music? If so, are there some parallels among the arts that can explain how each can influence the others? Give examples from art, music, and theatre and provide some philosophical justification for your position.
- In recent history, new internet technologies have affected access to artwork and the process of art making in dramatic ways. For example, musicians can participate across vast distances to conjoin in a single (?) virtual performative collaboration aired simultaneously in multiple locations, and complex algorithms can supplement or apparently even can circumvent human creative processes. Some critics opine that such internet technologies devalue or herald the death of various art forms. Discuss the extent to which these notions simply constitute a recurrence of cyclical concerns about integration of new techniques and/or technologies into artistic processes during selected historical eras. As you do so, consider era-based relationships among the following factors: What is the definition of art? What roles do artists play vis-à-vis artistic concepts within various artistic processes? How or why does it seem that technological innovation and/or innovative techniques came to be seen as monstrous or as instrumental to artistic achievement? Finally, consider contemporary relationships among these factors and internet technologies: for what reasons, if any, should we think that incorporation of internet technologies will proceed similarly or differently than in past experiences with the novel, the technological, and the unknown? As always, provide firm philosophical rationale in your discussion of examples chosen from art, music, and theatre.
- It is commonplace, though not universally accepted, to distinguish the beautiful from the “merely” agreeable. How might such a distinction be drawn? (You might consider how it actually has been drawn by such philosophers as Kant or Hume, or by twentieth century thinkers.) Is the distinction legitimate? That is, is the judgment of aesthetic value fundamentally any different from a report of the experience of pleasant sensations in response to some object? In particular, consider our evaluation of the beauty of works of art: Are the aesthetic evaluations of works of art fundamentally subjective reports of our feeling pleasure in their presence? If not, how are they to be analyzed? If so, what general implications would that have for the appraisal of art? Be certain to illustrate your discussion with examples drawn from each of the various arts you have studied. In the past few years, access to artwork and the process of art-making have been notably affected by new internet technologies. High speed internet and new applications allow artists to bypass institutional channels and directly access the public. They also allow for once unthinkable events, such as the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. It may seem that the artworld can only benefit from these technologies: they increase exposure to the public, and dispense with ‘gate-keeping' from institutions, making the artworld more open-ended and democratic. Or one may argue that open access to the public could bring an amount of “noise” that will be ultimately detrimental to art; that institutional gate-keeping does have an important pedagogical and critical role; that people with less access to technologies may be unfairly left out. Evaluate these pro and con, including pedagogical and philosophical perspectives and offering examples from theater, music and visual arts.
- What is the role of the audience in the arts (visual art, music, theatre)? Are works of art affected by the presence of an audience--does or can the audience even alter a work's aesthetic/artistic qualities? Do some genres of art presuppose the interaction with or role of an audience more than others? If so, how? And what might it say about how one might characterize the various arts? Please include examples from the visual arts, music, theatre, and philosophy in your answer.
- There are many examples of works of art from all genres being created by artists in diverse and dire straits. The expression of extreme suffering and duress is often found in works of art. There seems to be a need in human beings to overcome or somehow contend with difficulty or tragedy presented by life. What is it about the human spirit that insists that art must see creation even in the most unsympathetic of situations? What drives people to create art despite living in the worst of circumstances? Please be sure to establish a philosophical base for your response and to include visual art, theatre, and music in your response.
- Traditionally, visual art production has been more of a collaborative effort than common perceptions suggest. In the visual arts, people train the artist, make the artist's materials, sell the work, criticize it, place it in its historical and philosophical contexts, buy it, and exhibit it. The same is true of theatre. While sometimes described as the playwright's or director's work, theatre obviously is a collective effort which also includes actors, designers, technicians, producers, financiers, attorneys, marketing specialists, and others. Comparable lists can be made for music. However, a characteristic of contemporary arts is unprecedented pan-artistic collaboration: Visual artists, musicians, actors, directors, and writers increasingly produce products that include several or even all of their various forms of artistic expression. Furthermore, they reach beyond Western traditions for inspiration and collaborative partnership, and this collaboration often includes contributions and borrowings from the social sciences, the hard sciences, and the humanities. Why is this happening? Is this something genuinely new? Explain in terms of technology, sociology, philosophy, and globalization, using examples of collaboration that involve visual art, theatre, and music.
- Compare the places of women in the arts in Thailand and the U.S. Include discussion of the philosophical influences of Buddhism and Christianity in the respective countries. Refer to works of visual art, music, and theater.
- Emerging in the twentieth century and continuing robustly into the twenty-first, the notion that arts activity does not need to result in artifacts or other conventional artistic products has raised a number of unprecedented questions. For example, conceptual art often leaves nothing physical to "consume," which causes some to question art as a category. Is it true that anyone can conceive of ideas such as flashing pithy messages on professional ball park electronic screens (Jenny Holzer), producing sounds at frequencies indiscernible to the human ear (John Cage), "playing" multiple radios at the same time (Philip Glass), pronouncing random objects to be art (Marcel Duchamp), or viewing art as something to be destroyed (Tristan Tzara)? Or do such ideas have complex meanings rooted in the histories of the arts? Has the notion of art become irrelevant? Are such ideas dangerous?
- Often, programs that purport to be interdisciplinary may, in fact, be termed multidisciplinary. What are the criteria for being “interdisciplinary” or “multidisciplinary”? Now, imagine you have the charge and authority to develop an interdisciplinary doctoral program in fine arts. What should the boundaries of such an interdisciplinary fine arts program be? Which arts should be included in such a program, and why. (Be sure to add a discussion about “what is art?”.) Describe actual programs, if any, involving the fine arts that truly meet interdisciplinary expectations. Identify reasons for disparities between any actual programs and ideal circumstances. Propose an authentically interdisciplinary program that involves the fine arts, specifying the ideal amounts of coursework in various arts and collateral areas, ideal models for inter-arts relationships, and ideal models for interdisciplinary relationships among arts and collateral studies. How would you differentiate curriculum and expectations between an MFA and a doctoral degree? Be sure to include the relationship between scholarship/academic work and artistic/production work. Include references and examples from visual arts, theatre, music, and philosophy.
- Here is a bit of a puzzle: Avant-garde artistic works and movements often tend to be exclusionary, even one might say elitist, in their approach to their potential audiences. That is, it is typically the case that to understand and appreciate such work requires a level of sophistication and knowledge of the artistic context and history that an ordinary person could never be expected to possess. Hence, such work tends to have little, if any, mainstream popular appeal. And yet (here is the puzzle) one seems nonetheless to be able to find significant evidence of the visual, theatrical, and musical effects of the avant-garde all across the popular or mass arts. How is one to make sense of this? In addressing this question, first produce and explain some cases from theatre, visual art, and music of this sort of influence on the mass arts by the "elite" arts. Then provide an analysis of how and why this influence might be occurring, and finally discuss what sort of appreciation (if any) is reflected in and by the popular assimilation of these aspects of the cutting edge of the fine arts.
- In what ways that are unique to the present do people interact with the arts? (The present, for the sake of the argument, is defined as the last 20 years.) As well, how have the philosophical undercurrents that drive these interactions changed from those of the past? Please refer to examples from the visual arts, theater, dance, and music.
- A prominent concern of arts administrators globally is the quest for greater and more diverse audiences. Compare how the arts are marketed in Taiwan and the United States, giving particular attention to how each addresses issues of diversity. Make use of examples from visual art, theatre, dance, and music in your discussion.
- It would seem that understanding an object's function also potentially provides us with the criteria of its evaluation. Thus, to know that the function of a hammer is to drive nails is to know how to distinguish good hammers from poor ones. Furthermore, one could say that what it is to be a hammer is to serve (or, perhaps, be designed to serve) that purpose. So it would seem to be with human artifacts generally: they appear amenable to such functionalist definitions. Art is a human artifact, but is art like that? That is, (1) does art (understanding this notion broadly to span everything from the folk arts to the highfalootin ones, and Western as well as other traditions) have a unique function, a function that might provide the key to the proper analysis of the concept? If so, what is that characteristic and characterizing function? And (2) what might that function tell us about artistic value? (If art does not have such a universal function or functions, explain why not, and then suggest what other characteristic(s) might provide the unity that allows us to label such diverse sorts of things “art.”) In your discussion of this topic, be sure that your analysis makes explicit use of illustrations from theatre, the visual arts, and music.
- As an arts administrator in an institution of higher learning, you may be challenged by questions such as: Why should we continue to offer degree programs in the arts? The students who graduate with arts degrees do not automatically find a spot in the work place. And, why should we be spending millions of dollars on arts facilities? Theatres and concert halls are only for the elite and sophisticated. Some of the issues that arise from such challenges are Why should we promote arts education? Why should we teach the arts? Why is an education that includes instruction in music, theatre, and visual arts superior to one that does not include these things? Why is it valuable for a university to maintain and engage in an arts program? What benefit does such a program provide for the students? What benefit does such a program provide for the university community and for the area at large? Be sure to provide a reasoned defense of you position, and to include music, theatre and the visual arts in your discussion.
- In many cultures, a distinction is made between so-called "high/fine art" and "mass art," or "court art" and "popular art." Thus, in our own culture, classical and rock music are distinguished, as are opera and broadway musicals, Harold Pinter and Neil Simon, art films and hollywood blockbusters, the paintings one finds in museums and sofa art, and sculptures by Michelangelo and figurines by Hummel. Is there something significant to such a differentiation? If so, and if it can be identified in any general way, what does it amount to? If not, then how is it bogus and why? (Alternatively, if there is no significant distinction, explain the common nature to both "kinds" of art--what do they all share which justifies the common grouping?) Either way, consider the relevance of your analysis to the general question of defining art. Be sure to address examples from theatre, visual art, and music in your presentation.
- The last 20 years have seen us move to a digital world. The U.S. is no longer the world's "leader." In fact, no nation can be called the leader. We are seeing a decentering on many levels. Some call this postmodernism, a term that implies a paradigm shift. How have digitization and decentering affected the ways that people interact with the arts? What ramifications might these changes present for the arts within the academy? Please refer to examples from the visual arts, theater and music.
- Respond to the proposition that postmodernism has been a significant factor in the recent history of the visual arts, of architecture, of theatre, and of dance, but has established no significant presence in music. If the proposition is true, discuss why; if it is untrue, examine the manifestations of postmodernism in music and discuss their importance. Begin with a definition of postmodernism, and in your discussion discuss examples of its manifestations in theatre, visual art, and, if relevant, music. Refer also to the philosophical discourse concerning it.
- “Art” can happen anywhere–galleries, theatres, museums, concert halls. Sometimes art is presented/experienced in more nontraditional venues such as parks, street corners, outside buildings, etc. Give examples and discuss the aesthetic appreciation of different works of art (visual art, music, theatre) that have been presented in traditional venues and in alternative environments. You may want to use examples from history about the use traditional/nontraditional spaces. How does the space in which works are presented change our perception, expectation, and appreciation or understanding of the artistic work? Discuss advantages and disadvantages of presenting art is the different types of venues. Be sure to include a philosophical basis as part of your discussion.
- The Western art world in the 20th century is marked by the introduction and/or appropriation of works and styles of non-Western cultures. This borrowing can perhaps be found most famously in the "discovery" of African masks by visual artists during the early part of the century and, later, in the impact on jazz and popular music of Latin and African musical styles and cultures. What challenges do you think such "translation" raises for the interpretation and classification of objects as works of art? Does it reveal something about the nature of art (how it ought to be defined, for example) and, more particularly, what (if anything) does it show about the Western understanding of art and of non-Western people and cultures? In your discussion of this question, you should draw on examples from the visual and performing arts and demonstrate an understanding of the relevant philosophical concepts.
- In ordinary conversation, one of our central goals (perhaps the central cognitive goal) is to figure out what a speaker intends to communicate. But many theorists think that a concern for intentions is inappropriate in the artistic context. Explore the similarities and differences between art and ordinary conversation with an eye on how this bears on the question of the critical and interpretive relevance of artistic intentions in the visual and performing arts. Make sure you consider important differences between the various arts—-especially with respect to relevant artistic roles and functions. Use specific artistic examples, and be sure to engage with philosophical aesthetics.