How does beauty matter? And what is beauty? You’ll be surprised…

I recently sat down with Angela Houk to discuss an upcoming workshop in Folsom on October 7, The Power of Beauty. Angela, Director of New Joy Arts in Folsom and an instructor in the Studio at The Crocker Art Museum, has been thinking and teaching about beauty for 20 years. I talked to her about the upcoming session.

Scott Schafer

Director, Good Story Workshops


Scott Schafer (SS): Many people, when they hear of this workshop, are going to think of “appearances” – it seems to be the go-to definition of beauty in the popular culture, that beauty is about how something looks. But that’s not what this workshop is about…. can you explain?

Angela Houk (AH): That’s a very narrow definition of beauty. We won't be talking about cosmetics or fashion or physical attraction. And in fact, we wouldn’t care about how something looks – the artifice of beauty – if that didn’t point at something deeper. It’s that deeper reality we’re going to explore in this workshop.

For example, if you ask the question, “what makes a work of art move us?” – beauty is the thing that draws us into the work of art. Or a work of architecture, or a creation of technology, or a development within a community. When you start to unpack that, it’s way more complex than it seems at first blush. And it’s not just a personal thing, but a communal connection. Beauty is not merely personal and subjective, but something much bigger. We’ll look at how that works across art, design, technology, and communities. What we find is that beauty is the quality of excellence for which our hearts long, in any context. It’s a fundamental part of what it means to be human.


SS: What was the genesis of this workshop?

AK: I’ve been teaching and speaking on the subject of identity and finding value and purpose and meaning. That led to thinking about carefully crafted lives, which naturally led to questions about what connects us as humans. It’s clear that we’re communal beings. I found that many of the ways that we function as communal beings overlapped with theories of beauty that I’ve explored as an artist. This workshop is the synthesis of those connections.


SS: If there is one thing you would want people to know about beauty, what is it?

AK: That beauty matters…it’s not the frosting on the cake; it isn’t an extra or a nicety, but fundamental. Across the world, in every area of life, beauty matters, regardless of your life or socio-economic situation. The way beauty works pervades every culture. It transforms, and gives purpose and continuity to life. Without beauty, we are less.


SS: How does a better understanding of beauty effect one’s daily life? What are the possibilities?

AK: A better understanding of beauty affects the way that we engage the world around us. It changes our perspective, our outlook, what we are looking for, and why we do what we do.


SS: I’ve heard you say that beauty moves cultures…what do you mean?

AK: In times where hatred seems to be a more powerful force, it’s easy to lose sight of how beauty moves, unifies and motivates us. Beauty speaks from a deeper place than fear, and calls us to do what is hard and risky. Fear and hatred do not motivate us to that kind of movement.


SS: Who would benefit from this workshop?

AK: Anyone. People who long to live their lives with more purpose or who want navigate their careers and lives with deeper motivation will gain a lot from this workshop. The things we’ll explore in the workshop are not only powerful, but they’re extremely practical.


SS: Good Story Workshops are generally very interactive and deliver “use-it-right-away” tools. Are there things participants will walk away with that they can use Monday morning?

AK: Absolutely. This workshop is both theoretical and hands-on. They’ll discover some creative practices that are useful every day and in every situation. They’ll also go home with many more resources that they can pursue to get more beauty into their lives. And we’ll discuss some community events that they can participate in to take their explorations to the next step. 

Find out more about our workshop The Power of Beauty and register here.