I traveled to Columbus last Wednesday – yes I am just now writing about it – with a group of artists, arts advocates, and arts professionals – folks from Cultureworks, which is Montgomery County’s fundraising arm for the arts, folks from the Dayton Visual Arts Center, Dayton Ballet, Dayton Opera, Dayton Philharmonic, Human Race Theatre, Victoria Theatre, Bach Society, Cityfolk, Muse Machine, Dayton Playhouse, Town Hall Theatre, Dayton Art Institute and other arts organizations, performing and visual, – long run-on sentence – to lobby on behalf of our organizations, individual artists, and the Ohio Arts Council. The OAC’s funding has been drastically cut in these recessionary times, even though Governor Strickland is an arts supporter himself. The difficulty of course, is how do we allocate limited statewide funds? The other issue is, how do we not support the arts, which are even more vital in bad times? It is historical fact that arts attendance increased during the Depression because folks needed the uplift and hope that the arts can provide. In addition, in Ohio, the arts employ a lot of people, and contribute roughly 2% of the GDP in the state.
The arts are a health issue, an education issue, an economic issue, and a quality of life issue. I teach a class at the Kettering College of Medical Arts, which trains physician’s assistants, nurses, radiologists, and the like. The classes I teach are drawing and painting and other art media, nothing to do with the sciences, yet the arts too might be referred to as “healing” just like the healing arts these students are studying. In my classes they learn to see differently, they learn additional ways of relating to their future patients, and they learn ways to tap into their own creativity. And I know at some time, what they learn in a painting class will carry over into their careers; they will be able to use that knowledge later.
In education, students who participate in some form of the arts tend to score higher on standardized tests; they have better critical thinking and problem-solving skills, learning that there is more than one way to approach a challenge. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on and on and on, but I will save some for later.
I guess you can tell how passionate I am about not just maintaining the status quo, but finding a way to better support the arts, to introduce more people to the joys of visual art, theatre, music, dance, storytelling and the like (whatever I am forgetting!). Imagine your home without pictures, your life without family stories, your world without beautiful music…it is hard to imagine, isn’t it? And wouldn’t it be barren?