Dear Dr. Boli: I hear people talking about the “Fine Arts,” the “Useful Arts,” and so on. What is the distinction they are making? —Sincerely, Ann Ellers, Acting Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts.

Dear Madam: There are several generally recognized levels of art, and perhaps the best way to make the differences clear would be to give several examples of each.

The Fine Arts: Painting, sculpture, classical music, poetry, novels that no one buys, novels that everyone buys but no one reads.

The Pretty Good Arts: Illustration, popular music, movies, Broadway musicals, television shows, novels that people buy and read.

The Useful Arts: Architecture, cookery, garden design, plumbing, graphic design.

The Embarrassing Arts: Singing telegrams, macramé, karaoke, mime, advertising, performance art.

Dr. Boli hopes these examples will make the distinctions clear and be of some assistance in your work.


  1. KevinT says:

    Why have the Martial Arts been excluded?

    • The Shadow says:

      Probably because they don’t slot easily into any one category… They vary from Useful to Embarrassing.

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