Thursday, June 21, 2012

The importance of the arts

Federal: Support Funding for the NEA
Urge Congress to Reject Funding Cuts for FY 2013!

On June 20, 2012, the U.S House of Representatives Appropriations Interior Subcommittee passed their initial FY 2013 funding legislation and proposed a cut of $14 million to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Please take a few minutes to write to your members of Congress to urge them to support funding for the NEA in the FY 2013 Interior Appropriations Bill.

The NEA funds grants to dance, design, folk & traditional arts, literature, local arts agencies, media arts, multidisciplinary, museums, music, musical theater, opera, presenting, theater, and visual arts. To learn more about the programs of the National Endowment for the Arts, click here.

As you can imagine, this is something which is near and dear to my heart - NEA and other arts funding.  I wrote a letter to my Congressmen sharing my opinion.  I urge you to do the same if you feel so moved.  Here's what I shared with them:

I am writing today as your constituent to ask that you support funding for the National Endowment for the Arts in the FY 2013 Interior Appropriations Bill at the $155 million level OR THAT YOU INCREASE IT! I know it's a tough year economically, and that you'll be forced to make many tough decisions with the budget, but I hope you will recognize how unhelpful this particular cut would be.

I am a full time artist.  I made the choice to quit my 23 year position as an academic tutor just 1.5 years ago so that I could pursue my art career full time.  I might have been crazy!  It's been a challenge to support myself fully in this position, but it has brought me deeper joy and satisfaction than anything else I've ever done other than bring my children into the world and raise them.  Art is actually a critical part of society.  I know we tend to believe in this culture that it is frivolous and unimportant, easily cut.  I disagree heartily!

If you think back on any civilization whose history you've studied, what is it that has helped us understand it?  The art!  We learn about the people and their values and their understanding of life through their art.  We are captivated by their stories and their lives as reflected in the art. 

Other societies support the arts as a matter of course.  They understand the importance.  Germany, for example, (one of the leading economies in the world right now), supports dancers and musicians and artists and funds their organizations quite heftily because it understands how important cultural literacy is to a society.  IT IS A NECESSITY!

Even in our country in the past, there has been this understanding.  Under Roosevelt, the WPA employed artists and had them create some of the most lasting iconic expressions of that era.  Without the WPA's support, artists like Alice Neel and Jackson Pollock might not have survived the years of the depression.  It was during this time that America, NYC specifically, rose to major importance in the art world, overtaking Paris as the capital of the art world. 

Yes, artists love what they do.  We create because we are driven to.  Teachers are called to teach and follow that calling.  Mothers stay home with their children because they love them above all others and understand how important it is for children to have their parent with them.  Priests answer the calling to serve in the church.  Social workers want to save the world and do a great job at it.  What would we do without these loving, compassionate, insightful people?  And what do they all have in common?  They are at the bottom of the professional pay scale. 

Do we really live in a society where those who offer most to society are paid least?  And those who gather in as much money as they can and pillage the Earth in so doing (aka corporate greed) are best rewarded?  I would like to see a different society and am doing what I can to make that happen.

I ask you to please help by INCREASING funding for the NEA, NOT cutting it.  Please take a moment to think back on some of your greatest pleasures - seeing your children in a school play, visiting some of the great cultural sites in the world - created by artists, standing before a great work of art and feeling the rush of spirit which the artist has conveyed, hearing music which transforms your mood.  These are experiences which the NEA helps fund.  Artists NEED support.  We are like everyone else - trying to support our families and ourselves as well as we can.  We are blessed to have such a strong calling and to have the courage to follow it.  Please help us give a voice to what we are seeing in the world - it truly does help make the world a better place.

Many thanks.
Susan Singer

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