What Does an Interdisciplinary Artist Do?

Lily Ruha

An interdisciplinary artist combines an art form with other visual or performing arts, the liberal arts, technology and/or social or political activism. Musical theater is considered a multidisciplinary art wherein artists typically are required to sing, dance and act. An artist who interprets the liberal arts, such as history, literature or psychology, through the visual or performing arts is an interdisciplinary artist. The combination of art and technology, known as digital art, also falls into the category of interdisciplinary art. When art is combined with social activism, it typically addresses political or social problems.

An interdisciplinary artist in musical theater might serve in leading roles or as part of an ensemble.
An interdisciplinary artist in musical theater might serve in leading roles or as part of an ensemble.

Musical theater performers are one example of interdisciplinary artists. In this art form, artists typically undergo theater, vocal and dance training to learn how to properly convey a story or image through drama, music and movement. An interdisciplinary artist in the musical theater world might serve in leading roles or as part of an ensemble. Set design artists also work in musical theater, helping directors to bring theatrical images to life.

An interdisciplinary artist who combines art with liberal arts might focus on relevant historical facts, psychology topics or significant literary works. Telling the story of a famous war through interpretive movement or a theater piece is one example. A sung poem or a dramatic presentation of a literary short story is another example. Exploring a psychological theory through visual art is another interdisciplinary artistic approach. A professor's use of dramatic storytelling to teach a philosophical principle is another example.

The combination of art and technology is a popular form of interdisciplinary art. Special effects in movies rely on technology for altering and developing visuals and multidimensional images. Animation combines the use of computers and artistic talent. Graphic designers' use of software programs to create computerized images also can be considered a multidisciplinary art form. Interdisciplinary artists also use technological tools to make enhancements to recorded sounds in poetry recitations, comedic routines, songs and storytelling.

Social activism also is expressed through the arts by some interdisciplinary artists. This multidisciplinary art typically focuses on raising public awareness and inspiring social or political changes. Dancers might address the negative consequences of racism through an interpretive dance that displays conflict between two racial groups. Theater groups might create awareness about the plight of the poor by demonstrating struggles of hunger, illness and extreme stress. An interdisciplinary artist might paint a mural in a highly visible public space that expresses an opinion about specific political positions or initiatives.

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Discussion Comments


I would like to clarify: do you use the word 'interdisciplinary' and 'multidisciplinary' interchangeably? Or you have different definitions for these two words? Cheers.

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