You may have heard that Trump proposed to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is an independent agency of the United States federal government that offered support and funding for projects exhibiting artistic excellence.
According the The New York Times, it is the first time a president has called for ending this endowment since it was created in 1965 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson declared that “any ‘advanced civilization’ must fully value the arts, the humanities, and cultural activity.”
As a writer who grew up doing musical theater and attending performing arts schools, and a girl whose father and brother are active working members of the arts community, I think I’m going to have to side with Lyndon B. Johnson and the 8 presidents who came after on this one.
The arts are dying already as it is, and there are many obstacles for performers to overcome in order to succeed. There are very few opportunities for performers and musicians out there and never enough flourishing music programs in schools and colleges.
I loved watching my father play in big symphony orchestras and can’t imagine what growing up would’ve been like without that experience. My brother and I attended a performing arts high school and most of the people there went on to try and get a music or theater degree.
We need the NEA to provide learning opportunities in these areas outside of arithmetic, that develop us into more passionate, caring, and well-rounded individuals.
Perhaps you haven’t grown up in the arts, and need some convincing. Well, here are just a FEW reasons why I believe growing up with an artistic background not only shaped me as a person, but provided essential skills to help me get where I am today.
The arts taught me that there’s no right or wrong answer.
Of course standardized testing and public education are very important to me (which the current administration doesn’t seem to believe in either), but I remember my singing, dancing, and acting classes over math, science, and language arts any day.
Why? Because you don’t HAVE to be a genius to partake in the arts. The arts come from a different part of the brain entirely. In order to be more “whole-brained,” schools need to put equal weight to arts, creativity, and imagination as they do to logical thinking, analysis, and accuracy.
There is no right or wrong answer in art. Sure, there are people who may be more successful than others, but you simply can not fail. Once you participate in something creative, you’re already winning because art is about how a person feels, and getting to do what you love every day.
There are no tests scores that can compare to the rush you get when you are singing your favorite song, or performing in front of a live audience.
The arts taught me that it’s okay to be different.
I don’t think anything has made me more annoyed than in my college days when grown ass people would sit in the back of Art Appreciation or Dance Appreciation, and laugh at or talk during a performance.
What is funny about someone pouring their heart into something? Just because someone is acting in a way that doesn’t exactly align with your reality, why is it okay to belittle them?
In the arts, there is no reality. There is no judgement, or ridicule, or telling people how they should and should not act. The arts are about acceptance and patience. Hell, the arts are about whatever the heck you want them to be about.
The arts taught me that it’s okay to feel something.
Maybe some people’s parents teach them that they have to toughen up or “grow a pair.” But the arts taught me that every single emotion is important, and essential to someone’s well-being.
People come to the art world to find an escape. I remember being taught a young age that you don’t need to let go of everything that happened before you walk into a room in order to act, but rather channel those emotions into your work.
Art brings out emotional impulses. There’s little mentality behind it because it comes from the heart and from basic human instinct. If someone has to put themselves in a situation that they’ve never been in, they have to use their imagination, but also be empathetic and think of how a person would feel in order to make it believable.
With music and the arts, you are embedding those feelings into someone else. When someone sees a performance or hears a piece of music, they are being put into that mindset, so that they can feel those emotions too.
People who struggle to watch artistic moments without judging them haven’t been exposed to enough art. They are less understanding and fail to accept these concepts that allow them to feel emotions outside of their sheltered world.
The arts made me stronger.
People often get defensive when they are rejected. It’s a knee jerk reaction to get angry or upset, and it can break someone down if they are rejected multiple times. Everybody wants to put their best foot forward, and why? Because if they don’t, society will make them feel like they are worthless.
Feeling alone and worthless is something that EVERYBODY goes through. Every person wants to find their purpose, and as they grow they get flung into some monotonous job that makes them wonder if that is what life is all about.
We get stuck in patterns and take the easy way out, because staying in one place is better than dealing with that rejection.
But the arts can constantly evolve, if we let them. If we provide more opportunities for artists, that’s more and more lives that are gaining a better future because they don’t need to be stuck doing something they aren’t passionate about. Artists have an outlet that helps them feel alive.
And artists are strong. Being in the arts helped me handle break ups, job cuts, and constantly being told to work harder because all you can do in the arts is stand out so that you don’t get overlooked. All you can do is accept that you didn’t get something you wanted and try again.
If you don’t succeed one way, you just try a different approach. You communicate with your teachers, because they want you to succeed. You hear no a million times, but don’t give up until you hear one yes. You get sent into the real world with ACTUAL real world experience, instead of just knowing basic math.
There’s only one reason that I am where I am today, both personally and professionally. I am strong because there was only ONE lead role in the school play that everyone wanted. There was only ONE trophy for the best band in the competition. And there’s only ONE feeling you get when you finally nail something you’ve been working towards.
But there shouldn’t only be one place for young people to express themselves and gain these experiences. There should be much, much more, and that is what the NEA provides for civilization.