Thursday, March 4, 2010

In Defense of the Arts

To Whom It May Concern:

We didn't just sit down one day and decide to be musicians, actors, painters, dancers, designers, writers, singers, directors, or even stage hands. Trust me. In fact most of us have fought it for as long as we were cognizant of what a "salary with benefits" was.

We did not become artists so that we could be a drain on society. I'm tired of hearing about how stimulus money was wasted on theatre projects, symphonies, and art installations. The reality is that if the stimulus money hadn't gone to those artists; your tax money would have in the form of unemployment benefits, food stamps and power bill subsidies.

For the record, most of us have a formal education in a non-art related field for the very reason that we knew what the future would be like in the Arts. We knew damn well what we could expect; budget cuts, justifications and critics (the media AND our neighbors). Those whose formal education is actually in the Arts usually have as many or more classroom hours in their chosen area than most Doctors or Lawyers. Classical musicians and ballet dancers in particular began their formal arts education in early grade school, practicing every day and taking private lessons at least once a week through their college years and beyond. You do the math.

Giving your children an education that includes the Arts will not turn them into Artists. Not unless they have no other choice but to be artists because that is what they do. Not only do they have to love it, but it must also be what they are good at. If they aren't (and I know some of you are silently sitting at home and praying that your child will never be able to draw anything better than a 2 dimensional house or play anything at all by Beethoven), an education that includes the Arts will enhance their concentration skills, their math skills and their ability to work a project through to the end. They will be leaders, team players, visionaries, builders of buildings and mathematicians. To make that possible, there have to be some artists who choose to provide that educational experience for those children. Without it they will spend their days doing worksheets and looking at textbooks that have no pictures.

Karl Paulnack, Director of Music at the Boston Conservatory wrote this welcome address to the parents of the incoming freshman class in September of 2004. Please follow this link and read the speech in it's entirety. Especially if you have ever hoped that your child would just be a doctor.

We do not become artists because we are lazy, or because we are not intelligent enough to do anything else. We become artists because we believe that we can save the world.

Photo: August Wilson Center Dance Ensembles "moving mural" project Moving the Lives of Kids Community. 

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