Being that the election and all its vulgar, backbiting whoopla is dominating the news, perhaps now would be a good time to bring up something very important, and possibly more pleasant.
The Arts in the United States, and the programs that support them, is an integral part of our culture as a people.
Those who create leave a legacy. They make a mark on an otherwise barren work a day world.
Civilizations are remembered for the beautiful things that they leave behind. Has anyone ever said, “Wow, the Egyptians really had it going on with their profit and loss sheets, and talk about that gross national product?” “The Greeks, they really had some ideas about industry and the bottom line!”
No, it is not these things that make a civilization memorable. Potsherds, paintings on cave walls, or on pyramid walls, architecture and wordsmiths, those things make the list of intrigue. Who were these people? What inspired them to create? What was it about their culture that they have left behind?
If arts are so vitally important in defining a culture or region, why are the programs that support those who create waning?
What is support of the arts, or patronage, as it is often called?
A patron of the arts in the Renaissance period included the powerful de Medici family. They were known to give monetary aid to those who had the muse and made beautiful paintings, sculptures, etc. In ancient times, often the powerful used their patronage to further their political aims.
Today, there are programs to support artists in various forms.
The NEA or National Endowment for the Arts is a federal entity that gives grants, (sums of money that doesn’t have to be repaid,) to artists or nonprofit groups of various genres.
The individual states, offer grants to various genres, some are more supportive than others, but there are some offerings for the creative, if you meet the guidelines. Usually the grant is given to those who have already reached some notoriety! Or as Samuel Johnson, renowned English writer pointed out while describing patrons, which can be applied to governmental grant and arts assistance as well, “A patron is one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help.”
Support for those who struggle to create and live at the same time is in short supply and has been waning for quite a long while in the United States.
Western North Carolina, a vast treasure trove of artists and all of the genres that they follow has experienced a lack in the availability of funding. Buncombe County, one of North Carolina’s most talent-endowed areas, totally excluded the arts when drawing up an economic plan for economic development and job creation.
Denise Drury, director of the Fine Arts Museum WNC was quoted as saying,
The arts in WNC are at a tipping point. Our reputation for being an art, music and craft nexus is growing on a national scale. It is time for us to come together and make a plan on how we can capitalize on our collective successes and how we can train and grow our current organizations and nurture our next generation of artists.
The bottom line is this:
Unless more people realize how very important the arts are to our culture and be willing to support them, with both time and money, the less likely it will be to have a sustainable community of artists of any and all genres.
This is a national shame.
Maybe a good question to ask your favorite candidate for office is what is their position on the support of the arts.