Architecture, music, fashion, film, and art have something in common: the people in these fields are continually pushing the edge of what is possible. They often work at the fringe of society with one eye looking back towards us and the other looking over the horizon and beyond.

Through their work, they interpret and translate what they feel and see–and we may not understand what they create. They explore these regions so that we don’t have to.

The work of an artist may be emotionally jarring, aggressive, colorful, transparent, dense, metallic, loud, subtle, or quiet. It could also be inspiring, formulaic, or overwhelming. It’s in the qualitative aspects of their work that clues will emerge about what is coming next for our civilization.

It is tough to connect the dots and to make direct correlations, backed by data, between artwork or new buildings or music and what people are doing day to day. I like to look at art of all kinds as a vision for the future. Some of it may make sense and other times it may not. 

There has been a trend in architecture over the past few years to build more buildings and office spaces that are transparent. This is done by replacing solid concrete or masonry walls with glass. The effect is that more light is able to penetrate the building, but also that you are able to see what everyone is doing.

At the same time, people have been demanding more transparency and accountability in government, business, and organizations. Is there a direct link? That may be a stretch, but it’s all part of the same trend toward openness. The key for the observer is to watch the patterns and figure out how else openness will manifest itself in other ways: perhaps changes to a political process with fewer impediments to participation; open borders or relaxed immigration policies; easier access to government resources; or more choices for affordable housing.

Not everything will be positive, and it’s up to people to decide which direction we should go by accepting one future over another. The arts can at least offer clues about what’s coming.

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