On Arts and Science in the SCA

 A perspective...

Arts and Science (A&S) in the SCA is everywhere. They are so pervasive that sometimes folks forget it is A&S. I was told that a former King of the Midrealm (I do not recall which) said that A&S in the SCA is like breathing, you don't notice it until you don't have it. 

When I was a Chatelaine I told my newcomers that the Arts Martial in the SCA, when you combine all of them, amount to about 10% of what we in the SCA do.  That's it, about 10%. After that it is all A&S and Service. A quick definition for the difference between an Art and a Science is a tongue in cheek one I was give by my former Shire's A&S officer. 

If you throw it at a wall and it sticks, it’s probably art. If it falls down and you can use it, it’s probably a science.  For example: A wood storage box is Science. The carving or paining on the wood storage box is Art. Another way to look at it is that Art is to look at and science is to use. Ink making is a science. Ink on paper is art.

At every event you go to, every fighter practice you go to you are viewing arts and science. Making a rattan weapon is a science.  Making armor is science. Fixing armor is science. Making them pretty is an Art. Swinging the stick is Arts Martial. The rapier is science, the armor is science, making them pretty is art. Poking someone with a rapier, spear and rattan sword is arts martial. Clothing is both an Art and a Science. You can use it and it is pretty. Belts and pouches are often both pretty & useful.

Banners are A&S. The pole they hang on is A&S.  Drinking vessels are A&S. Food is Science and can also be art. Awards are certainly an art. Their Majesties, Their Highnesses and Their Excellencies thrones are all A&S as are the crowns and coronets they wear on their head. The regalia of the kingdom is A&S. The pageantry of Court is A&S. Anything with pageantry in the SCA is A&S. Without A&S, there is no SCA. There is no armor, no clothes, no awards, no feast, no site tokens, not anything. A&S is like breathing, you don't notice you're doing it until you're not.

Sometimes people say that we don't do enough A&S.  To me, the problem isn't that we don't have enough A&S in the SCA. It’s that people don't recognize A&S when they see it and that there are folks who don't think A&S as important. 

It is easy for us to focus on the POP & WOW of arts martial. It is a draw.   I have heard it said (not by many mind you), that any event without arts martial will fail. That mindset amazes me. Especially if you agree that 90% of what we do in the SCA as a whole is A&S and service. I have been to so many A&S only events that I feel that Arts Martial while awesome and fun to participate in and/or watch are not required for an event to succeed.

I am a Martial Artist in the SCA.  I started learning heavy fighting at the age of 14 around A.S. 25. though I dropped out of the SCA for a period of time since then. For the past 10 years I have been a Fencer, I also shoot archery and do Thrown Weapons when the opportunities present themselves.  So, please, do not take what I'm saying as an attack on Arts Martial, far from it.  I very much enjoy my Art Martial and I encourage others to explore and enjoy the Art Martial.  Remember though that the SCA is nine (9) times more about A&S and service than it is about all the arts martial combined.

A&S and service are what the SCA is really about. If we're going to study the pre-17th century world by doing it, then what we do must be A&S. And A&S must have come before arts martial, it is only logical. Somebody had to make the stuff before it could be used.  And making the stuff of Arts Martial is A&S.

It is my hope that people in the SCA will change their perception that the SCA is mostly about Arts Martial.  Often we lack the perception that there is A&S everywhere in the SCA.  To change this view means that the group - be it local, Kingdom or SCA wide - perception must come to consciously recognize that A&S is pervasive in everything we do.

Focus on creating more A&S and better skilled A&S folks.  Joyfully and enthusiastically engage others about your A&S whatever it may be.  Don't go overboard after all you should respect that you might have accidentally roped someone in that can't find a polite way to exit.  This kind of respectful enthusiasm creates in others a desire to know more about that A&S and perhaps even do that A&S.   Improve your skill and encourage others to improve their skills.  Again, enthusiasm is contagious.

By doing this we increase both the breadth of people doing A&S activities and the depth of their skill.  And perhaps it engenders a greater willingness to perceive that A&S is everywhere in the SCA.