The soul of a people is the arts. The art they make. The art they revere. The art they pursue. Art can provide political commentary, as does Picasso’s Guernica in 1937, or speak to the human condition, as does the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. In fact, any attempt to articulate the power of art is woefully inept, as it is a force larger and more powerful than the words, paints, or rhythms it employs.
As a culture, we in America value the arts, but not enough. Even in our short recorded history as a country, we have produced a powerful body of musicians, poets, writers, painters, sculptors, potters, architects, filmmakers, weavers, designers, blacksmiths, dancers, photographers, carvers, and yes, even metalsmiths. And yet, we are yanking arts from our public schools, stealing music online, and balking at prices at art festivals and galleries.
Balance is key. When we consider the future of our country and the world, we must look to the next generations and realize that they need a balanced worldview, an understanding of peoples and cultures and economies and religions. Are we fostering skills in critical thinking and creativity? We are modeling something for them, what is it? Are we giving and doing our best? We are leaving a legacy. Is it the one we want?
There is a movement to establish a cabinet position in the White House of Secretary of the Arts. Unlike our counterparts in other parts of the world where artists and their work are national treasures, America does not have a minister of culture or any official position to advise the president in matters of the arts.
The Cabinet of any presidential administration includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments — the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Attorney General. What’s missing? The Arts.
American music legend Quincy Jones is leading an effort to establish a cabinet position to foster the arts in America through boosting education, awareness, understanding, and exhibition. (Sign the online petition here.)
Now is an exciting time to be an American. We are connected, democratic, and purposeful. May we proceed with a vigor, an inventiveness and a compassion that is distinctly American.
What kind of footprints are we leaving?