Participants in the discussion of the draft report “Future of the Arts & Society” included a radio personality, a civil engineer, an adult student, a retired legal community administrator, and a lawyer. The ages ranged from mid-twenties to mid-fifties and we met, once again at Chez Billy.
As the facilitator, I opened the discussion with the question, what is art to you? Some of the answers were free expression, in the eye of the beholder, creativity, political, senses, and religion. In responding to the possibilities, participants felt that libraries should be open to all types of people in that the connection with physical books is important and should be maintained even though the Kindle and iPad are very prevalent today. One person mentioned the recent warning about backpacks of book weighing school children down and suggested the use of text material in the Kindle. They also suggested the use of books on tape that is the topic of a recent commercial on TV with a man jogging while listening to several books on tape and finally realizing that he is far out of town.
In the next possibility, participants noted that everybody does not have good taste, that art is expensive, and is a gamble. It is a matter of what pleases you. On the issue of censorship, one possibility brought to mention the recent cover of New Yorker magazine depicting First Lady Michelle Obama be-afro’d, in camouflage wear and draped with guns and ammunition. Likewise, the depiction of President Barack Obama as a monkey is an example of art being hurtful and harmful to the image of the United States of America to the rest of the world. It is unfortunate that freedom of expression can be used as a defense for such heinousness, participants noted. One participant shared while addressing possibility five, which explored art education, that she remembered the absolute heartbreak of hearing her father explain to the school music teacher that had brought the news of his opinion of her brilliant talent on the violin that since her mother did not speak English and her father had limited resources and was busy, there would be no private lessons. The participant said that she never picked up her violin again. And lastly, possibility seven, The Art of Diplomacy, brought to mind numerous examples of artistic outreach from the USA worldwide: Folk Life Festival, Step Afrika, Alvin Ailey Dance Troup, and the most recent treasure, Gabby Douglas won the most prized possession in women’s gymnastics, the Olympic all around gold medal!
The takeaway is that we all need to do our part to the perpetuation of the arts by donating instruments and money, volunteering with artistic skills, buying the art of amateurs, insisting that governments and private companies fund grassroots art projects annually and receive awards or tax credits.