Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Impractical Ideology Puts Arts Under Attack

Gov. Sam Brownback (R) 

The latest headline comes from Kansas today, where our new Governor Sam Brownback has just eliminated the Kansas Arts Commission

This comes right after a rules-change in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in neighboring Missouri, that has made school arts programs voluntary, not mandatory—and anyone who’s seen what a beating school budgets have taken recently, knows what that means.

This is a one-two punch in my own back yard—but no matter where you live in the US, the arts are under attack.  Joyless conservative ideology is trumping practical reality in state after state.

Yes, that’s right—practical reality.  What the arts-cutters don’t want you to know is that the arts don’t cost.  They PAY. 

First Friday crowd in the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District
As we've proved in the Kansas City Crossroads Arts District, in Cottonwood Falls, KS, and many other local and regional examples, artists are often pioneers for economic regeneration.   Moreover, on nearly every scale of a community’s “livability” and desirability, a vigorous arts community is a “must.”

A concert in Cottonwood Falls, KS draws a crowd.
Missouri’s backward attitude notwithstanding, there also is considerable research to show that a vigorous school arts program can dramatically improve the chance of success for at-risk students.  Participation in music programs is positively correlated with math excellence, for instance.  I guess all that is irrelevant?

And how about the lament among those who worry about America’s global competitiveness that we need more creative thinkers?  Where do you think we’ll find the best training and practice in creative thinking?

Eliminating support for the arts is the lamest kind of false “practicality.”  We can’t afford to fall for it.  Yet in state after state, it appears that we are.

Images: Sam Brownback from Polichicks website; KC Crossroads First Friday crowd by Jan Gephardt; Concert in Cottonwood Falls from Kansas Sampler Foundation website.

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