I was busy filling sippies with milk, making those Peanut Butter & Co Dark Chocolate Dream rollups the kids like (and coffee, always coffee), and getting our day started. My ears perked up when Rachel Martin started talking about the current administration's proposed budget on Morning Edition. As Orange Julius’s plan to eliminate the NEA, NEH and Corporation for Public Broadcasting unfolded, my stomach turned. I wanted to punch him. And scream. And punch a few other people.
It wasn't because the collapse of the NEA would be a death blow to the arts in the US. It wouldn’t - their contribution to arts funding is proportionally very small. I was upset because it's a statement about our culture. Civilized countries have ministers of culture in most levels of government. In Italy, for example, I worked extensively with ministers of culture from metropolitan areas to very small villages. And what’s more, just about ALL of the government officials I worked with, whether their job was promoting the arts or not, had a palpable interest and passion for art.
Here, though, we have pretty much nothing on a governmental level that says to our population “art is an important part of being a civilized nation.” Except the NEA, NEH and CPB. And now they want to kill that, too.
To some people (too many, apparently), “art” is something hanging inside a museum hundreds of miles away. “The arts” is what urbanites do when they’re not too busy making organic smoothies and running their beard and glasses startup from a Macbook at a coffee shop. You know...a luxury.
(before you get mad at me, I pretty much do all those things, minus the beard)
Why are large swaths of our country so ambivalent about “the arts”? Partially (in my opinion), because it has just never been an official priority in the US like it is in other countries.
But I think the other reason is that we all (even artists) take art for granted. It’s easy.
Don’t believe me?
Every minute of every day, we don’t just enjoy art, we use art.
When we allow art to be framed as “out of reach,” “for other people,” or “nice but not necessary,” it loses significant power.
Art is a valuable tool that keeps our country running.
Dear members of Congress, the toad at the White House, and anyone else who considers the arts a luxury --
You’ll need to run your mid-term elections without:
Any sort of typeface
Your larger campaign events will need to be run without:
Also, I guess all of us will have to get by without:
Any kind of building or house
Anything that comes in a package
Anything that has a label attached to it
Money (what’s that on this dollar bill? Oh look, it’s a drawing)
I think you get the point. These things don’t design and create themselves.
Behind just about everything we use - all damned day - was a creative: tweaking it, making it better, making it work, making it feel good in your hand, making it easier to read, making it noticeable, making it effective, making it safer.
Did you get knocked unconscious this morning because the metro lurched off before you could stop binging on @conbritshair (y’all) and grab the hand strap? No? Thank the artist who created the warning jingle.
Did you recently fall off a cliff due to lack of clear signage? No? Thank the designer who laid it all out and the copywriter who made it plain your selfie should be taken about 10 feet closer.
Why is it that they have music when we’re on hold, waiting for the plane to take off, shopping; I wonder? Oh, that’s right - so that we don’t lose our f**king minds.
Wearing a burlap sack today? Didn’t think so.
Right now, we’re in for the fight of our lives and artists will help lead the way.
If you’re a creative and having one of those “but am I really contributing anything” kind of days, stop it. What you do matters. So you’re not Shepard Fairey. Fine; there can only be one of him anyway.
All we need is something that makes someone stop and reflect for a bit. That could be some really thoughtful packaging, copywriting that sets off lightbulbs, a song that galvanizes a group of people, an eye-catching layout, or just plain doing something beautiful + human that helps a stranger get out of their funk and do their good work...the possibilities are endless. Whatever you’re doing, it’s important, it matters; even if you don’t know how or why...yet.
And here is what we do in our family. If any of this resonates with you, or you have other ideas, I’d love to hear from you.
We support local arts organizations.
With: money. Where we live, this means giving money to ArtsWave. Find out who needs some help where you live, and give - even if it’s five bucks. They’ll appreciate every cent. Also, you get your investment back (see next point).
We go to arts functions.
Reality check: with a preschooler and toddler, this is *very* challenging. Often, we’re up against battling 6 weeks of snot and puking, or just plain exhaustion from life with two small humans. When that’s not happening, we make going to arts functions a priority.
We’re fortunate to live in a city with a vibrant arts scene that seems to effortlessly weave arts experiences into everyday life with kids. For example, we can take them to the park to get their wiggles out while a concert of the Cincinnati Opera's season highlights - complete with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra - is happening a few feet away. Or take them to cool off in the fountain, with music pumped through the spray ground’s surround-sound via the Classical Music Hall of Fame iPhone app (we really are lucky).
Find out what’s happening where you live - you might be surprised to find there are some really easy options (which is the most important thing when you live with littles, right?). Don’t think you have to get them (+ yourself) into uncomfortable clothes and sit still for two hours at something that costs money.
We support public radio
Not only a shining example of free press, but also a champion of the arts.
We make art a part of our kids’ lives.
Yes, we have a background in the arts, but you don’t need an art or music degree to do this. Take your kids to the library, get them set up with plenty of art supplies and let them go to town, play some well-crafted music for them, read them books with beautiful + engaging illustrations, cue up the Joffrey Ballet on YouTube. And, when you see something beautiful, point it out to them: an unusual color combination, the print on your daughter’s dress, the sleek design of your phone, or the vibrancy of the flowers in the park. Make appreciation of what art + beauty has to offer to us a regular occurrence. Side note: someone who has done this beautifully is Gabriel Blair. I highly recommend her book, How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide.
Keep on keepin’ on.
Art is not just beautiful. It’s not just an expression of our humanity.
Art is a necessity.
What have you used today that an artist touched? Have you thanked an artist lately? Tell me in the comments.
Ready to join the movement?
Who the hell is this Sara person? More here.
Fancy a binge?
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