Statistics as Art

This past weekend I had the pleasure of spending some quality time with a few of my cousins and their families.  The weather was so nice we spent part of the day at the zoo, a beautiful respite between crushing midwestern storms.  My cousin Maddy Lucas, a talented artist and photographer, brought along her camera and was incessantly snapping pictures of “ordinary” things.  But to a true Artist, there’s no such thing as ordinary.  They see things in a way that others don’t and find a way to capture it.  We’re stunned when we see an old building or a boring tree transformed into something remarkable.  And that’s how I see Statistics.

Statistics is not AN art.  “An art” implies improvisation, a lack scientific rigor or manipulating an object (or data) to reflect your own vision of the world.  Unfortunately that’s how most people see our profession.  But Statistics is Art.  We have our own paintbrushes, chisels, lenses, pottery wheels, etc. but we call them linear models, CART, R, and Ggobi.  We can use the tools of our art to discover important information that’s often overlooked.  And if we do our jobs right we create something that makes you say, “WOW.”

You might be thinking if Statistics is Art what isn’t?  Accounting?  But why not?  Every iPhone is equipped with a camera, but that doesn’t make everyone a photographer.  So what’s your art?


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