The phrase “art for art’s sake” comes from the French “l’art pour l’art,” coined by a French philosopher in the early 19th century. Although it had slightly different interpretations, “art for art’s sake” represented the idea that art should be valued purely for its aesthetic qualities, separated from any political, social, or moral meanings. It was a radical idea that challenged stifling moral and societal attitudes of the day. The philosophy applied not only to the visual arts but also to literature, music, performance, and other arts.
Today, the phrase has evolved into the general idea that art should not serve any purpose beyond itself. Critics of the idea believe that art without purpose or meaning is but an empty shell. There are those who cannot help but to create from a place of deep knowing and truth within themselves that generates inherently meaningful works of art that shows us something about humanity, about life, and about the society we live in. Aurore Dupin, a 19th century French novelist, wrote, “Art for art’s sake is an empty phrase. Art for the sake of truth…that is the faith I am searching for.” Walk a few steps in these artists’ shoes and discover something new and unfamiliar that you’ve never thought about or experienced.
(This collection was curated by Judy K., Fall 2021 Archives Intern)
February 12, 1973 - Founders of The Women Poets of the Twin Cities give voice to their poetry in a program dedicated to the anniversary of the birthday of women's rights leader Susan B. Anthony.
September 17, 1975 - MPR’s Bill Siemering interviews Marisha Chamberlain, St. Paul's Poet in Residence, about her experience teaching poetry to mentally handicapped communities.
March 28, 1979 - MPR’s Nancy Fushan talks with feminist Black poet Audre Lorde about the power in her poetry. Segment also includes Lorde reading her poetry.
November 21, 1980 - MPR's Nancy Fushan prepared this look at Mixed Blood Theater of Minneapolis and their production of the musical revue "Wake!", based on the career of black minstrel performer Bert Williams, combining music and social history.
February 17, 1988 - Maya Angelou speaks at an observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, birthday, addressing an audience at Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota. Angelou also reads her poetry and recounts her experiences.
April 23, 1993 - MPR’s Mike Mulcahy interviews Minnesotan author Marie Lee on her young adult novel If It Hadn’t Been for Yoon Jun. Lee discusses the struggles of integrating her Korean and American identities and of feeling different than most other adolescents in her youth.
September 27, 1993 - Janet Hagberg, a Minneapolis-based artist, provides commentary on The Silent Witness Exhibit, an art installation created by the Arts Action Against Domestic Violence, an ad hoc group of women artists and writers in Minnesota.
November 1, 1993 - A reading from an anthology of poems, “Mouth to Mouth: Poems by Twelve Contemporary Mexican Women,” published in 1993 by Milkweed Editions (Minneapolis, MN). Excerpt is from an introductory narrative and poem written by poet Isabel Fraire.
January 12, 1995 - MPR’s John Rabe interviews Jack Reuler, founder of Mixed Blood Theatre in 1976, on receiving the Martin Luther King, Jr. award, as Reuler reflects on his vision for his theater.
February 20, 1998 - MPR’s Chris Roberts reports on play "Canned Goods" and interviews playwright Silas Jones.