I was recently watching the videos “Stressed Out” and “Car Radio” on YouTube by the duo band 21 Pilots.  Stressed Out is possibly the closest song these guys have to a mainstream hit, but make no mistake about their youthful following since their formation in 2009.

So, why am I sharing this?  Well, though I’m 60, I love all kinds of music, artists and art and I enjoy thinking about what not only makes it all tick, but the generational interest in art.  You see, I’ve noticed that most traditional artwork, [paintings, sculpture, etc.], is being collected by the Baby Boomer Generation (1945 – 1964) and the oldest of Generation X (1961 – 1981).  It made me think, why?  Is it simply that younger generations don’t have the disposable income needed for such purchases? Certainly this is part of it and there have been studies done which seem to indicate that the youngest Millennials (1975 – 1995) will eventually come around to, dare I say, luxury purchases. But I think there’s more here than meets the eye.

Millennials are lovingly what I like to refer to as the Target Generation.  Meaning, many were raised shopping at Target where their version of art is on one isle, frames on another isle and everything else is in between. They were not taught to seek little shops as much as shopping the big box.  Malls too, but as they dwindle Amazon becomes the norm.  So unless they were exposed to art galleries or frame shops, and taught of their importance, it just isn’t on their radar screen.  Not their fault either and even though they may have been highly exposed to art museums, art as a personal purchase is just not something their generation as a whole completely relates to.

Now you may think I’m being harsh, especially if you are in that age group and you love and own art.  My apologies and bless you!  I’m just saying it isn’t really the norm.  But for Generation Z (1995 – 2016) and what I’ll call that Amazon Generation, it may even be worse as they too come of age.  We live in changing times.  We live at a time where disposable is normal, but it wasn’t always this way.  Think about this and I’m not alone on this for my age group. My now departed Grandmother was born in 1895 and I still have two of her wedding presents and use them to this day.  One is her ironing board and the other a snow shovel.  This means these things are very close to 100 years old. Laugh, but they both still work fine.  This would be kind of rare for a millennial and just not going to happen for Gen Z. 

My mother, who was the first female personal shopper at what use to be the upscale Woodward & Lothrop department store in Washington, D.C., would tell me stories later in life about how clothing was so well made and expensive that people didn’t get rid of much, even with style changes.  Instead they would have alterations done. Raising and lowering hems to suit changing styles.  Today we throw it out, put it on consignment or donate it. Most clothing just isn’t made to last.

So generations have been progressively exposed to evolving markets and manufacturing trends. It’s amazing to think kids have cell phones.  I can remember when a cell phone was a massive luxury item and it was only a phone and the size of a brick.  Today it’s a computer the size of a … well, they keep changing the size of those screens, but it’s way smaller and lighter.  What has happened though, for Baby Boomers, our freedom was the car.  Kids today derive the same freedom with their phone and not necessarily even talking on it.  No sir, who wants to talk when you can text, tweet and Instagram your social media self through the world?

Getting back to 21 Pilots.  Kids today especially, don’t listen to music, they watch it. Ever since Michael Jackson thrilled us with Thriller, or the recently departed Prince gave us Purple Rain, the music world has been changing too, and when they are not watching music, they are watching all kinds of video and playing with colorful interactive apps. So younger generations today don’t dislike art, I think it’s just that the art they have been conditioned to love, understand and relate to, looks different.  

When much of the masterful art that we know of was first being created, there wasn’t even electricity, much less our saturation-al use of it.  Old masters didn’t even know what a grocery store was, because it didn’t exist. Their visual creations were so amazing to see [and hear] because there was no sensory overload. Art was it.  No lights, no phones, no TV, computers, video, heck, barely even signs.  

Centuries later, fine art paintings, sculpture and more, have to find their way and place in the competitive world of visual stimulus.  I’m not putting down my brushes anytime soon because I believe in its importance. But it will be up to the aging to expose the ageless, while accepting that time and change are not stagnate.

Live An Artful Life,

Tom