Not long ago, in a discussion about bad / cheesy movies, I made the comment that such things were art even if they weren't intended to be. That statement more or less just jumped out of me, unbidden — who at one time or another hasn't been ambushed by the truth? — and the more I reflect on it, the more it seems right.
Part of why I said it was in light of the way cult movies emerge. Cult movies aren't "made" — rather, they just sort of happen. You can't "make" a cult film any more than you can make something "go viral", although I suppose you could whomp together an argument to the effect that such things can be encouraged by the right combination of circumstances (the "make your own luck" argument). But on the whole, cult status isn't something that can be predicted — it's something conferred on a film.
If that possible, I thought, then most anything that has a degree of creative work involved in its making can be thought of as a work of art. It's a status that's, in the same way as cult-dom, conferred upon the work. The work may not be a good work of art, but it does live somewhere in that category, whether it's lingering at the fringes or smack dab in the middle.
Now. The big reason I take this attitude is because, in my opinion, it encourages that much more of a sense of responsibility on the part of the creator.
If you think of whatever it is you're creating as "disposable" or "mere entertainment" or some variation of that line of thought, it becomes easier to look at it with some measure of contempt or thoughtlessness. If you think of what you do as a work ot art — or at the very least artisanry — you have that much more respect for what goes into it, and in turn that much more respect for the audience it's intended for. And, by extension, all other audiences as well.
Don't take this as an excuse for pretentiousness. Fear of a Black Hat comes back to mind, where the members of N.W.H. come up with hilariously contrived "intellectual" arguments for why their work isn't sexist, racist, homophobic, reactionary, etc. The point isn't to assume an air of inflated importance for one's work, but to look at it with the respect it deserves and treat it in such a way that others will feel inclined to have the same respect. Given how much creative work gets thoughtlessly flung out into the world today, and how easy it is to do that, a little more respect on our part hardly hurts.