Thursday, January 08, 2009

Secretary of the Arts

Holy crap it's about damn time somebody did this.

Earlier today, Cory sent me an email with a link to a Petition to President-elect Obama, inspired by Quincy Jones, asking him (President Obama) to create the office of United States Secretary of the Arts.

This wouldn't necessarily have to be a Cabinet-level position, (which at any rate might start a political firestorm in the current climate), but the Secretary should have an active role in policy-making, not be a mere ceremonial figure.

As the email mentions, many other nations have some version of a 'Minister of Art and/or Culture' and have had them, in some cases, for centuries. "Well yeah," one might argue, "but these are other countries: places that consider Arts to be a matter of National Pride."

Well, yeah.

And maybe it's tricky for me to be saying this, since I work in the arts, and this can be seen as self-serving. And maybe it is a little self-serving. But I would add that I (and almost all the people I know who work in the arts) have made all kinds of sacrifices for the privilege. And that in addition to my opinion that art is, you know, important, there's tons of evidence that, in the context of education programs and as a part of daily life, artistic endeavor and interest help build the valuable skills of creativity, interpretation, imagination, discipline and critical thinking. AND - lest we fall prey to the argument that "in a time of such severe economic crisis, war and failing healthcare and educational systems, we cannot allow something as frivilous as the Arts to be treated as a truly high priority" - I would propose a fierce and heartfelt response along the lines of: "Smart and ambitious Art programs actually provide economic stimulus, and can amp up discussions in any number of policy areas. Besides, wouldn't you say that creativity, interpretation, imagination, discipline and critical thinking come in handy when constructing, say, a healthcare initiative?

So, in that spirit, I signed the petition with the following comment to President-elect Obama:

As you help America make its long-awaited and much-needed transition to a new era, please remember the importance of the Arts as building blocks of American Culture and Heritage. And remember the lessons of history: that the Arts can also be useful tools for providing employment, improving education and stimulating the economy. A Secretary of the Arts could play a very useful role to that end.

And for what it's worth I, signatory number 15086, encourage you to consider signing it too.


The Green Cat said...

I guess the word is getting out. I just signed it and I'm #38043!

Lori said...

Count us in as two more signers. Music has been such a gift for Sam, can't imagine not encouraging it!