Why should candidates address or be expected to have a policy on funding and support of the arts? Not just the NEA, but community, regional, national, and international art organizations and artists who have committed their lives to sustaining and developing expression? Why should local and states representatives be asking the question of how the federal government will add and enhance programs in sustaining the arts on all levels of our society?
As a dancer, choreographer and teacher, a lot of my work has been in community, regional, and international art over the past forty years. Over these forty years in community art, I have seen the wages and administrative support go down to the point where making a living doing this type of work has become unrealistic. My focus is on community art, the base of society’s popular culture.
What About the Culture of the Arts?
Every Artist and Arts Organization doesn’t fit into the same box.
America has many layers or classes within its society. These layers are side-by-side, at times, over lapping and interdependent on each other. Each layer or class has its own traditions and environments for expressive development and training to serve their immediate communities. Artistic environments need to be safe from the real estate market. This would allow for ongoing artistic functioning as a means of protecting and supporting their communities.
Social understanding comes from exposure and experiences in the arts. This starts within communities. Community artists and organizations might not have the corporate infrastructure, but have been effective in their communities over time. All art forms do not fit into one box for evaluating expression, process, or administration. There are communities that will benefit from the arts, but would not be able to financially sustain art programming in their communities. Through state and federal funds, community art has provided performances, training, residencies, and life values that produce a stronger society through educated/creative understanding.
Community programs located at sites make it easier and safer for children to attend, while parents are working or trying to get things done on their one day off. It is easier for parents to support and attend events and functions when travel isn’t a major factor. This can be addressed from different focuses—baby-sitting (holding pattern), or having a sustaining training program.
Children involved in the arts get the opportunity to be exposed to, and trained by professional working artists who live in, or come to their community regularly. The standards of creative training are the same human values needed in any area of life (focus, self discipline, exploration, discovery and expression of self). It is a chance to identify and develop the special people who are to be the artistic future.
Community organizations and artists know the community and work at getting families involved, even if it is calling on the phone, texting, and sending notes home. These artistic activists are important in audience development into regional presentations. Through local presentations, citizens are more likely to seek out more art exposure as their personal taste and economic abilities allow for more artistic experiences.
The candidates have to be asked why the arts are not actively included in broadening the cultural artistic landscapes, without taking from other cultural arts. Cultivating local inter-cultural collaborations between artists and organizations for local and regional collaborations to cultivate understanding of the how and why diversity is a good thing for creating peace and cooperation among newly-defined communities. Quality on a local level raises the quality of the arts on the regional and national level when there is a strong base of artists and audiences.
Tradition and Elders vs. New and Youth
Every Elder doesn’t fit into one box.
If the candidates are not talking about stabilizing Social Security, I know they have not considered funding elders who have lived in the artistic business, not as stars, but as consistent contributors of the American Artistic Expression, while maintaining their social responsibilities as taxpayers. Why should these artists and organizations compete for the same funding as emerging artists and organizations? These elders may be administrators, performers or technicians. These elders should be funded to share their wisdom and supported in their continued creative growth. I experienced elders receiving proclamations stating their contributions to the American Artistic Expression at the same time becoming homeless. They are not elders famous enough for the Actors Home or the Jazz Foundation. These are elders who are not poor enough for public housing and don’t have enough for the open rental market. Housing for life should come along with the proclamation and the plaque. No one is challenging our society with taking care of its Artistic Treasures on all levels of our society.
From their local communities, Regional Theatres should be funded for “Elder Wisdom”. This would be a benefit to our society by providing residencies, guidance, mentoring, and inter-generational exchanges, passing on the wisdom of the past to the creators of the future–on and off the stage.
Community Artists, Organizations, and Public Education
Every student doesn’t fit into the same box.
Many studies have shown the value of the arts as part of the educational experience. Why have our politicians allowed test preparation to wipe out classroom collaborations with classroom teachers and artists who teach? Community organizations and local artists’ lives overlap in places like banks, stores, churches, etc. Children get the benefit of “It Takes A Village to Raise A Child”. The Arts, as part of after school programs, do not support the educational values of process and intellectual measurability associated with focused classroom learning.
Our candidates are not speaking to, and for, all of the people. Our candidates are not using one of the most powerful tools in creating a knowledgeable society for tolerance, acceptance, and living in peace with diversity. Why? Our lives are not TV reality shows. Our lives are reality.