My college students frequently ask me to discuss the difference between entertainment and fine art. Although art is often entertaining, and entertainment can be artful, the difference between art and entertainment is complexity, depth. Entertainment, by definition, is accessible, entertaining. The goal of entertainment is not necessarily to challenge, but to entertain. In contrast, fine art challenges our assumptions. It combines unity of form and structure with intellectual complexity and depth of emotion. I tend to think of art and entertainment as a continuum. On one end of the spectrum is entertainment, in its simplest, most accessible form, unquestioning, unambiguous, nostalgic. While at the other end of the continuum is art at it’s most powerful, challenging, thoughtful, sublime. All other forms of art and entertainment can be located somewhere within the boundaries of these two extremes. I always ask my students to identify what they envision midpoint between the two boundaries.
A Collection of Writings on Nature, Science, and Art by John Holland