The artist as an individual

A dancer on a stage, a politician at a podium or a scientist in a lab — an artist is an individual who has a unique and profound impact on society. Exploring this impact and the artist’s role is York University dance alumna Carole Anderson (BFA Hons. ’73) in her new book Reflections in a Dancing Eye (2006).

The book is a collaboration between Anderson, an award-winning choreographer who currently teaches in York’s Dance Department, and Joysanne Sidimus, who is founder of the Dancer Transition Resource Centre. Featuring 47 interviews from a diverse group of Canadian artists, Reflections in a Dancing a Eye, examines the role of the artist in society from a variety of perspectices.

Left: Carol Anderson (left) and Joysanne Sidimus sign copies of their new book Reflections in a Dancing Eye at a recent book launch

Anderson was inspired by Sidimus’ lifelong and burning interest in the socio-economic status of the artist, which stemmed from the lack of literature on the topic. While the role of the arts in general has been explored time and time again, the role of the artist as an individual has been largely ignored. Reflections in a Dancing Eye picks up where most books about the arts and the artist fall short.

“Much research and writing exists about the value of the arts in education and in a healthy civic society overall,” says Anderson. “But very little has been written about the role of the individual artist.”

Reflections in a Dancing Eye includes perspectives from artists from a rich array of disciplines, including academe, business, science, politics, spirituality and the fine arts. Scientist Roberta Bondar, athlete Silken Laumann and musician James Campbell are among those interviewed in the book. Exploring the perspectives of artists from different worlds, Anderson recognizes the artist as more than a performer or entertainer, rather a creator.

“Personally I think the artist acts as many things,” says Anderson. “A bridge betweeen ideas and society, a person with a passion for personal expression, a visionary, a carrier of culture, a person who seeks truth.”

Though the perspectives of each interviewed artist vary, they agree that the artist’s work and the artist plays a great role in the informing, shaping and enlightening society. From communicator, to commentator, to creator, the role of the artist has a deep impact on the world in which they live.

“I’m sorry but artists are not allowed to bury themselves in their art and forget that there’s a world around them,” says writer and producer Fil Fraser in one of Reflections’ interviews. “Use your art to show the world that there are other ways of dealing with things, other ways of looking at things, that the world is still full of wonder, that the world is still full of beauty.”

Interviews in the book also draw out perspectives on the ways in which government, spirituality, religion and science interact with the arts. Genetic research, communication technology and the digital era are also addressed in the interviews, exploring how society can, in turn, greatly affect the artist.

Featuring interviews from Canadian artists who span many different disciplines, Reflections in a Dancing Eye is an academic and personal look at the role of the artist in society.

This story was written by Bethany Hansraj, a student assistant in the Publications unit of York’s Marketing & Communications Division.