I have several passions in life and the arts are one of them. I’m not sure why I’m so passionate about preserving the arts, perhaps it is because I never received much of an education and thus an opportunity to explore the arts as a young child.
I was in the first wave of baby boomers after the war and the overwhelmed schools were too busy shoving us into crowded classrooms to worry about the arts. To complicate matters, I moved in the ninth grade from a school system that waited until the ninth grade to introduce study in music and art to a system that covered these subjects in earlier grades. Thus, I have never had a real art or music class where I studied the basics of these subjects and then had an opportunity to participate in these activities. Most of my art education has been self-taught by joining choirs and visiting art museums, concerts, plays, ballets, etc. I think this early deprivation created a real yearning in my soul for an outlet for self-expression. Perhaps that is why I drifted toward writing.
Another popular belief during my childhood was that since we were to be the leaders in the new post war society our studies should be more about the basics such as math, science and basic writing skills. Anything in the arts was frivolous and must take a back seat to progress. But wait, this argument sounds very familiar! Over ten years ago I was a lobbyist for the arts in the schools and those are the very words I heard legislators use as they half-heartedly listened to arguments for and against revamping the educational system in efforts to establish a fair and equitable education for all. It was a huge law suit called DeRolf vs. State of Ohio first filed in 1991. The suit eventually died in 2003. I could give you the legal mumbo jumbo attached to the case but the best way to summarize it is to say it died due to politics.
Now politics threatens to endanger the very arts themselves. The Republicans have been nipping at the heels of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) for years and now the Republican dominated congress is threatening to drastically trim the NEA budget or even eliminate it. The Republican Study Committee, led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Urbana, wants to eliminate the NEA budget altogether. Why should this matter to you? For one thing, Ohio arts groups have received $8.8 million from the NEA since 2007. About half that went to the Ohio Arts Council which then issues grants to smaller groups around the state. I was once a member of the board of a community concert association that received a grant from the Ohio Arts Council and I can tell you that money was greatly appreciated. It enabled us to bring in big names and quality acts to our small community. We received many letters of thanks for our long hours of volunteer work but the most rewarding one was from a patron who brought her recently widowed friend to a show. She said that was the first time in months her friend had smiled and was able to forget her troubles.
You may think you are not a patron of the arts and the arts have no affect on your life. I challenge you to stop what you are doing right now and look around you. Is music playing in the background or is the TV turned on? Musicians are providing the music. Writers wrote the script for the TV show, designers created the sets, fashion designers created the wardrobe, artists painted the sets and provided pictures for the walls, and actors made the story come alive. Do you have art work on your walls? An artist created it. The furniture you are sitting on was designed by a designer. The building you are in was designed by an architect. The magazine on your coffee table houses a multitude of artists from commercial artists, to photographers, to writers. The public buildings you were in today required the cooperation of various architects, interior designers, commercial artists, etc. Art is in every aspect of our lives.
Now, take it all away. Turn off the music, turn off the TV, close the movie theatres, silence the orchestras and bands, take away all color, make all buildings a square box, make all fabrics plain and beige. What kind of world would we have? Whether you know it or not, we need our artists. Help save the arts. Get involved with your local arts groups, community theatre, concert associations, choirs, bands, etc. If you aren’t talented enough to be able to participate, then show your support by being an enthusiastic audience member. Support these groups with you time and financial gifts. Let your representatives know that you support the arts and we need the National Endowment for the Arts
The arts are an even better barometer of what is happening in our world than the stock market or the debates in congress.
- Arts groups in Ohio watch budget for NEA (dispatch.com)