In This Age of Global Divide, Art Is the Best Unifying Force We Have
The power of art to unite us across political divides is paramount, despite a tendency of artists to be leftists. Victoria Coates, art historian and foreign policy advisor to Ted Cruz's 2016 Presidential Campaign, explains.
Dr. Victoria Coates is a cultural historian who received her Ph.D. from The University of Pennsylvania specializing in Italian renaissance studies. Her work has appeared in The Sixteenth-Century Journal, Gazette des Beaux-Arts and Renaissance Studies. In 2007, Dr. Coates became the Director of Research in the Office of Donald Rumsfeld and provided editorial support and content analysis for Mr. Rumsfeld's New York Times best-selling memoir Known and Unknown. In 2011, Dr. Coates joined the Rick Perry presidential campaign as an advisor for foreign policy. In 2013 she became a senior advisor for national security policy for the United States Senate. She has also been a senior fellow at the Commonwealth Foundation, an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and a consulting curator at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Dr. Coates lives in Philadelphia with her husband, two children and two dogs. Her new book is David's Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art.
Victoria Coates: I blame the perception of art being liberal on [Pablo] Picasso because he was a card-carrying communist. It's interesting the artist who painted the great anti-fascist picture saw absolutely nothing wrong with totalitarian communism. And certainly most artists tend to be a liberal. I don't think though that that means that Republicans or conservatives can't appreciate art and that also that there aren't artists who can be conservative. That might be the sort of tendency, but I don't think it's exclusive. And I also think art, particularly the kind of art that's in David's Sling, is a real uniting force. I mean I don't care if you are Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz; I think you both can come together to appreciate an achievement like Michelangelo's David. That shouldn't be a difficult or a divisive thing; it should be a uniting thing. Whether we want to be or not, we are engaged in a civilizational struggle with forces that are extremely hostile to what we would consider to be the Western tradition, although now it is a global tradition with the inclusion of states like Japan and Israel. This is something we should all come together to support and celebrate and so art can be, I think, a wonderful vehicle for that kind of unity.
What's the one thing Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders can agree on? According to Victoria Coates, art historian and foreign policy advisor to Ted Cruz's 2016 Presidential Campaign, it should be an appreciation of art. The nature of art is to bridge gaps, she says, whether they are made by time, space, or political persuasion. In an era of divisive politics and global struggles against anti-cultural forces like ISIS, we need art that expresses the essential human experience more than ever.