Home > 555. The Golden Thread, B. The Living Artifact, C. The Thinker As Hero, Uncategorized > Cultured–What Makes an Artist an Artist

Cultured–What Makes an Artist an Artist


More depends on the question of culture than is usually imagined. Rather like defining poetry, sorting out who is and is not a cultured individual leads to many answers and intense debate. Everyone wants to be cultured, but since a cultured individual performs no definite task and produces no recognizable product, people often assume that such people simply do not exist. The cultured person is one more fairy tale left over from an earlier and simpler era.

RT’s take on the issue is that some people are cultured. What distinguishes them from others? Here are some of their characteristics:

1) Cultured people are broadly educated. This means something other than being very intelligent or having acquired many academic degrees. The cultured person may not score exceptionally well on standardized tests and may be self-taught. He or she nonetheless has mastered a broad range of subject matter, most often in the humanities, but not necessarily. A hunger for understanding and an ability to grasp implications and the big picture seem to be essential.

2) Cultured people are pursued by certain questions. Like the novelist who is unable to shake off a need to bring his story’s characters to life, a cultured person is defined by certain interests; these interests invariably have social implications. Why do many people today dress with apparent disregard for their appearance? Why are particular races and ethnic groups slighted in the city where I live? Why do people where I live often eat poorly? Research can help answer some of these questions–may be essential to answering them, for that matter–but what lays at the heart of a cultured person’s response to them is the imagination.

3) Cultured people express the role of the imagination within a community. This is what distinguishes them from scholars and intellectuals. They are concerned with questions that affect everyone and that address the functioning of the community as a whole. In other words, they are concerned with culture, the things that tie people together: history, race, religion, language, the common settings of our collective lives. There can be no correct answer to the questions they struggle with, only happiness in the way we live. Not so much in the way a town or city is organized as in the way that people operate outside organizations–in the apparently minor details of address and appearance, of humor and delight in other’s company–these are the moments and places that cultured people enrich.

4) Cultured people have been saved by beauty. A cultured perspective is one aspect of the artist’s epiphany. We tend to look at the products of the artist–the  dance, the drawing, the poem–as their characteristic and best contributions, but it is not in the specific moments of beauty produced, but rather in the search for healing, for the details that give satisfaction and joy, that artists are most important to broader society.

5) Cultured people are essential to a community’s happiness. No job titles or salaries attach to the life of a cultured person. They in fact are often hidden–hidden from the search for safety and power. Nonetheless, cultured people deserve our respect and support. We must strive to find ways to integrate them into our live–they give success beauty and wealth meaning.



Photo: Georgian Door, Dublin. WikiCmns. Public Domain. Source: Thpohl.


  1. mj
    January 6, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    That’s a subtle but interesting take on cultured vs intellectual / intelligent people.

    • January 7, 2013 at 5:19 am

      MJ: thank you; i find your blog subtle and interesting… RT

  1. July 26, 2013 at 7:05 am

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