Art captivates and moves us, but it takes a psychologist like Ellen Winner to try and pin down why that is.
The Friends Lecture Speaker for May is Ellen Winner, Department Head, and Professor of Psychology at Boston College and Senior Research Associate at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education. She directs the Arts and Mind Lab which focuses on cognition in the arts and is the author of more than 200 articles and four books.
We all know that art captivates and moves us, but it takes a psychologist to try and pin down why that is or to attempt to tease out the ways in which we all benefit from exposure to art. It takes a psychologist to bring the rigors of science to bear on easily made assumptions that sometimes prove not to be as obvious as they seem. For example, it was Dr. Winner who debunked the claim that exposure to arts education raises students’ scores on standardized tests, a finding that spurred her ongoing investigation into arts education and the actual benefits students derive from studying art.
In her most recent book, “How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration,” Dr. Winner looks at art through psychological and philosophical lenses and discusses answers to timeless questions such as, “Why do we need Art?” After all, no one has ever discovered a culture without one or more forms of Art. Is Art inherent to our species? Is it, like language, something we are just programmed to do, part of being human? Is it true that people have stronger emotional reactions to music than to the visual arts? Is it true that people actually can tell the difference between abstract art created by artists and that created by “my five-year-old” and, if so, how? And why is it that we are drawn to art that depicts tragic or horrifying events? Is it possible that interacting with art helps us develop empathy?
For the answers to these and other questions, come hear Dr. Winner speak. Part of the Friends Lecture Series. For tickets, go to https://ticket.artsmia.org/catalog/friends-members