Art for Art’s Sake – Not a Traditional Native American Concept

In these contemporary times we live in, the idea of “fine art” — art for art’s sake — is well accepted. But when it comes to traditional Native American lifeways, art for art’s sake is unlikely to have been part of the picture.

Typically, traditional Native American “arts” served a purpose other than art — a purpose which could have been utilitarian, social, or spiritual. Art was often incorporated into utilitarian objects. But art for art’s sake played no functional or utilitarian role and was rarely practiced.

That said, art was a part of just about everything. It was incorporated into objects used in the course of everyday living, to objects reserved for ceremonial purposes. People incorporated art into the clothes they wore, and into the bags and baskets they used to gather and store foods. They also incorporated it into the tools they used, the canoes they built, the horses they rode, and the weapons they made.

Art was, essentially, everywhere. But it was not art for art’s sake. Art was always integrated into objects that served a useful purpose.

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Learn more about the Native American culture of the Columbia River Gorge …