Updated: Apr 11
In America, math and science seem to be emphasized above other subjects. It’s completely understandable as we live in a world now that is dominated by technology. Most well-paying jobs involve the use or manipulation of technology, which is evolving so rapidly that inventions of just a decade ago seem like relics now.
However, math and science can't stand alone without the arts, and the arts are suffering. The National Endowment for the Arts is on the edge of being dissolved by our Congress. The arts in schools have been relegated to electives, and are not required. Some schools don’t even offer them. Many schools don’t have drama clubs, dance competitions, or art exhibitions. Those opportunities are delegated to independent companies that must charge for their services, and are often struggling. Children whose parents cannot afford lessons or to attend the theatre are often not exposed to the arts at all, other than what they see on television, which is largely non-participatory. Often those hardworking parents don't have the inclination and don't believe they have the time to take their children to a museum, even when it is free.
So how does this affect our society? I would argue that it is a tragedy that will have long term effects. To understand, you must understand that the arts are our very foundation. Let me explain.
We are the storytellers. Without us, humankind would not progress. It would not flourish. We are the foundation of progress, both past and present. Before the advancement of science and math, even before written language, there were storytellers. The storytellers were the ones that kept history and wisdom. They were the ones that kept traditions and values alive by passing stories along generation after generation. Storytellers were valued as leaders, keepers of everything that had brought us to the present, everything that would lead us to the future. As society has progressed, the storytellers have used technology in every generation to continue their storytelling, but the technology does not stand alone.
You see, science and math are about universal fact. But they are not what makes us human. They are not what drives us forward as a society. The storytellers do that. Today, we call those storytellers artists.
Art, all types of art, at its base is about our values, our ethics, our history, and our internal reflections that progress with us. If we try to progress without giving the arts due respect, we will make tragic mistakes. It is absolutely essential that we pass on an appreciation of the arts to our children.
So in a world that continues to devalue artists, what can you do to support the arts? Here are some ideas that I came up with.
1. You can support the organizations that support the arts. Your local arts council is a good place to start. If you cannot support them with your money, support them with your time. Volunteer. If you don’t think you have time, let me give you some statistics. Recent research says that the average person spends 2 hours and 22 minutes per day on social networking. Nielson rating reports in 2017 discovered that the average American watches television 3 hours and 58 min daily. That’s more than 77 days per year. You don’t think you have time, but you do.
2. Patronize the arts. Again, you have the time. And there are plenty of ways to do it cheaply or for free. Museum galleries are almost always free. You can see theatrical shows and professional concerts for free by offering to usher. Sometimes their final dress rehearsals are open to the public, but only insiders know about it. Ask. Street performers and performers in restaurants and bars love to have an audience, although they do appreciate donations. You decide what you can give. Many towns and cities host free outdoor concerts during the summer months. Church services often feature music that you won’t hear anywhere else for free and churches also offer concerts in their facilities that are only supported by donations. Speaking of churches, many also have summer arts programs for children that are very minimally priced.
3. Petition government organizations to support the arts. Often that is the only way that underprivileged families are exposed to it. We need it in our schools and in our communities. And if there are no community theatres, art galleries, good libraries, and so on, where are you going to go to patronize the arts? Where are you going to volunteer?
4. Don’t forget that the written word is art. Support literacy. Visit the library and your local bookstore. Libraries are not just for reading. They host tons of free community events, from art classes to writer’s workshops and author signings. Both local libraries and bookstores have book clubs for adults and children’s story times. Read children’s books to your children so they are exposed to both literature and fine art.
These are just a few ways to support the arts. There are many more. Look for the opportunities around you. It’s important, to our future and to our very identity. If you have some ideas that I did not list, please join the site and add them in the comments. My mission is to help the arts flourish.
If you can suggest some ways to support the arts, visit the forum post for this article. The forum is for members, but you can join for free if you're not already one.
CATT Center is a free social media format designed specifically for creative artists to collaborate and share knowledge for the benefit of the arts in all of our communities.