Funding for the arts and arts education is, once again, under attack.
Mitt Romney has announced that, if elected president of the United States, he would cut funding to PBS, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for Humanities. In light of the minuscule fraction of the deficit that these programs represent, the message seems to be that the arts and humanities are not important or necessary.
If we really care about the cultural health of this country and our kids’ education, we need to invest in programs and tools that support the maintenance of our cultural health and well-being. That means supporting programs that enrich our lives. It means exploring solutions that have yet to be discovered. It means we need the arts and arts education more than ever before in our complex 21st century lives.
As a reminder of the legitimacy of the arts in our society, I’ve compiled a list:
1. The arts celebrate multiple perspectives; there can be multiple solutions to the same problem. The arts help to teach complex forms of problem solving.
2. Art develops a willingness to explore what has not existed before. Art expands our experience and encourages open-ended thinking that shows the value of questions rather than just answers.
3. Art teaches risk-taking and being open to possibilities. Art allows one to grow from making mistakes. The arts teach us that small differences can have large effects.
4. The arts enable us to have experiences we can have from no other source. Art reaches across racial stereotypes, religious barriers and socio-economic levels and prejudices. Art acts to illuminate the world in ways we may not have otherwise considered.
5. Art facilitates emotional intelligence. The power of the arts has the unique ability to give us joy, to help us understand tragedy and to promote empathy.
6. The arts make clear that neither words nor numbers exhaust what we can know. The arts help us learn to say what cannot be said. The arts help us learn new languages. Art, fueled by imagination, allows us to grow and stretch beyond our boundaries.
7. Art builds community and a sense of belonging. Art seeks to shed light on the human condition: the things we struggle with, the ways life can confound us and the efforts we make to find meaning in our existence. Art is an eternal human need.
People in most rural areas of the country have limited opportunities to see, hear and experience the arts. This makes supporting the arts and arts education even more crucial to our community. I grew up in rural Montana, and my exposure to the arts was very narrow. But as a kid, I got to see the PBS show “Soul!” It forever changed my world view, and I have been dancing ever since.
Sandra Butler is the education coordinator of Durango Arts Center. The opinions expressed are her own and do not represent those of the DAC board of directors, staff members, membership or volunteers.