Because I am a person who takes the arts for granted, it can be difficult to articulate why I think art is so important. I want to venture some thoughts on the subject. This is an incomplete list in no particular order, but putting it into words helps me understand more deeply why I continue with my work.
Art can be a tool for examining the events in our communities or the behavior of the people in them. It can demonstrate what we have done well, or suggest better ways we could have handled situations. It can remind us to still think about things past. There may be events from history we would rather forget about, out of shame or regret. Or perhaps it even bores us, sometimes, to talk about the past, but drama (or other forms) can make it interesting and re-engage us in the subject.
Art can help us care about other people. Empathy is perhaps a bit undervalued, but I think caring about the well-being of others can encourage us to seek solutions to a myriad of everyday problems. When art can show the personal details of an individual's story, and charm us with their character, and provoke angst and excitement over their challenges, then we can almost imagine being that person, or being in that person's situation. And then if we shift our focus to see how many others could be feeling the same way, then we might care about whether things are fair and good for them.
Art can ask questions I never thought of asking myself. Art can inspire me to question my habits, rethink my assumptions, reconsider my options, and demand the same of those in charge. Art can teach me about something I never thought about learning. Art can inspire me by the amazingly creative ways other people can think. If someone could come up with that brilliant work, then I need to challenge myself harder to try to do as well. If I can be inspired to want to work more creatively, others can also realize that there may be new ways to approach...anything!
Art can show me how seemingly competing forces can help or depend upon one another. Art can show me multiple points of view all at the same time. Art can present ideas to me in ways that are simultaneously visual, aural, kinesthetic, and visceral.
Art can help me improve my language skills. Art can help me develop a better eye for noticing details in the world around me. Art can manipulate me. Art can point out to me how music and soundscapes can shape my perception at any moment. Art can encourage me to feel something, rather than think about it. Art can then try to make me just think about it intellectually without getting bogged down in my feelings. Art can amuse me, cheer me up, or distract me from my worries. It can make me sad and allow me to have some quiet contemplative moments. It can make me laugh and help shake off some stress. It can make me laugh together with a roomful of other laughing people and assure me that I'm not alone.
What so much of this comes down to is that art helps us learn and helps us enjoy learning. We can then apply that skill and attitude to any other subject that concerns us. Learning is good for us all.
Editorial thoughts...as this is still a tool for myself, primarily...I would like to come back to this list and streamline it while also fleshing it out with specific examples for each idea raised.