Saturday, April 24, 2010

Entering the Dark Ages: More Funding Cuts for the Arts

On April 14, Georgia legislature contemplated not funding the Georgia Council for the Arts. In essence, Georgia would be the only state without funds for the arts. It is still undecided as of this writing.

No funding for creativity. No encouragement to express oneself, experiment in various mediums, no art for government buildings, no budding artists programs.

But why should this be any different? Education funding has been cut and the curriculum dumbed down. Library budgets are non-existent and commissioners who determine those funding amounts are saying things like, "libraries are a waste of money. Everyone watches TV. I don't like to read, never been inside of a library and look at me...." The last sentence was said to me by our local county commissioner and it was all I could do not to laugh and say, "Well, you are our poster child for what happens when one doesn't read."

No vision. No wisdom. Very little knowledge. And so set in the past that he can't see past yesterday!

Free thinking seems to be a form of anarchy. Look at this explosion of tea party activists who are simply people afraid of change. Afraid of the light since they've lived in the dark for so long. Afraid of tomorrow. They are not looking to the future, they are clinging to the past.

Have we reached that point where we have so many comforts that we can no longer take a risk, watch and wait and see what happens? Why does the immediate reaction to any change have to be hysterical denial and name calling and death threats and labeling and words like 'undemocratic' and 'traitor' and worse....

I remember growing up in a time when tomorrow was bright and full of experimentation. OK, I'm a product of the 60s, and no the experimentation I was thinking about wasn't drugs or free love. I was thinking of the space race. The space exploration, the call for people who could not only build a space craft, but could also envision what to do with it. Where have all of those men and women gone? Is that why our space program is doomed to extinction? All of the visionaries are retired or dead? Who is rising up to take their places?

Most recently our experience has been in the healthcare field as my husband battles a rare disease. When in a hospital, rare is not good. No one seems able or willing to veer out of the normal protocols or to look at the patient instead of the monitors. His breathing problem is muscular not cellular, yet they treated him as if his lungs were diseased. They are healthy. Not the problem. It took a frantic wife with a whole lot to lose to convince them otherwise. It took persistence and tears; anger, yelling, begging, pleading, demanding, and finally my husband rising up out of his bed and refusing treatment.

Maybe that is what reasonable people must start doing before the opportunity for change is lost. We can begin in our own homes, teaching our children what isn't being taught in the schools. We can teach our children problem solving skills, step-by-step processes to get from point a to point z. How to 'see' something that is not conceived. How to turn an idea into reality.

And you know the very best ways to teach children these things? Yeah, you probably guessed it: ART!

Math and music go together. Teach a child music, and his math skills will improve. Fact.
Art and spacial skills improve. Hand-eye coordination grows more adept. Verbal skills and reading skills improve as children are encouraged to use their imagination and express themselves. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but usually within those pictures, the budding artist feels the need to use words for further expression. Sewing improves just about every aspect of life, and makes it possible for a child to make things for himself whether utilitarian or strictly ornamental or a bit of both. Cooking -- self preservation and self care as well as math skills, science, nature, and a bit of nurture as an added sprinkle on top.

Georgia produced some of the finest writers in America. Is there no pride left? No hope of producing more Erskin Caldwells, Pat Conroys, W.E.B. DuBois, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connors or Margaret Mitchells? (Just to name a very few from a long list.) Or artists? Or visionaries?

Perhaps if those legislators had spent more time working on creative projects, they could be more visionary leaders, finding ways to balance budgets and grow their states, meet their citizens needs. Instead they resort to cutting off funding, depriving their citizens, and then running for re-election on their lack of vision by saying, "We closed libraries, cut funding to the arts, and dumbed down schools. But, we balanced the budget...."

I do so miss people who can reason and think, solve problems and see risks as opportunities.