Why Is Art Important In The SCA?

Medieval art involved not creative freedom but subjection to rules. Some time after classical antiquity all period creations were done for God’s glory. If that’s the case how does art relate to you and me in the Society for Creative Anachronism? Especially since the organization is apolitical and nonreligious. Why is Art important in the SCA?
First, what is art? Art isn’t easily defined as other things are like biology or math. For this post, I’ll begin with the English Oxford Living Dictionary‘s definition.

The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

A 16th-century diamond-point
 engraved glass I recreated.

Art then is a tangible medium using creative skills and imagination. In the Middle Ages, those were focused on God’s beauty and power. How does that relate to us in the SCA now?

In the SCA today you recreate Medieval things to explore and search for answers about the original maker’s skills and imagination. We don’t create original works as art is defined today. We recreate.

Through recreation, you learn about the original item’s artisan. Whether your chosen item was individually or communally made. Whether it was created for personal, communal, or political use. And the rules or laws they followed.

Recreating period items allows you a close, mindful look at its Medieval maker’s creative ways and means. Their available techniques, materials and tools and how they were used. You also learn how your recreated item was used in their daily life.
I engraved this glass for an arts and sciences competition “East Mees West” at Calontir’s coronation of Garick von Köpke and Yasamin al-Hadiyya September 11, 2004. Diamond-point engraved glass during the 16th century was often done by artisan’s separate from a workshop. Stroke by stroke the tiny lines scratched acanthus patterns onto glass and so did I. The glassware would have been formed in Western Europe; the acanthus patterns originated in the Middle East. East meeting West.

Your Medieval art and science recreation is closer to today’s realm of material culture study. It’s analyzing period human-made or altered things.

Perhaps you didn’t know you were doing material culture study when you decided to recreate that cool item your persona would have used. But it’s all but labeled that way in the SCA’s mission statement

…The SCA is devoted to the research and re-creation of pre-seventeenth century skills, arts, combat, culture, and employing knowledge of history to enrich the lives of participants …

And the SCA’s Minister of Arts and Sciences describes your art as one of the 

…crafts, skills, and technologies practiced in the time period and cultures that our studies cover. SCA participants [That’s you.] research, study, and practice these skills and then share them with others. …the costumes (garb) we wear, the armor used in combat, the scrolls presented in Court, and the recipes used for a feast, just to name a few.

Recreating gives you new ways of thinking and expressing what might not be understood through printed or spoken word alone. It connects something physical to a historic human experience. And it has the power to cross time, age, class, race or gender boundaries to communicate with strangers.

You don’t have to consider or know any of this. Just recreate that cool period item. Make that art for fun. 

Related External Source:
New Member’s Guide

Related Prior Post:
What’s An Award Scroll’s Purpose? 
The Scribal Yin Yang Puzzle 

Categories: Musings

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