By Victoria Gill
Elm Staff Writer
When was the last time you saw a play? The last time you jammed out? Would you care if these things diminished in production one day? The arts aren’t just a fun hobby. Accessibility to art is an outlet for many to express their identity. Many social groups and cultures need art to facilitate discussion and understand people who are different from ourselves.
Arts education, for most of us, can go back to the fourth or fifth grade, where students were given a choice to learn how to play an instrument. Many adults show unwavering support as students perform in concerts, class plays, and art shows because, at a young age, it’s cute.
Getting older, students don’t receive the same support. Parents worry about academics when seeing their children ‘waste’ skills on a painting or spend hours in rehearsal. Between high school and college, anyone not involved the arts would see an arts-related future through a lens: easy major, starving artist, no income.
This stigma is not only soaked in our social upbringing. It has also been reflected in the U.S. legislature since the beginning of President Donald Trump’s administration.
NPR writer Brian Naylor said that Trump’s proposed budget for the national debt included cutting the National Endowment for the Arts almost entirely, and the National Endowment for History getting “about $148 million each — a tiny portion of the roughly $4 trillion federal budget.”
The budget cuts also include the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Concern for preserving arts education spread right after the election. Celebrities have been vocal about the value of arts for expressing social issues. The performers of the musical “Hamilton” addressed Vice President Mike Pence, showing their concern for their future in the U.S. While this had to do with the recent minority tension that still continues, cutting funding would also mean fewer people learning how to produce influential shows like this. This show may not have been able to exist, and the message would have been lost.
Trump later angrily ranted on Twitter that theater “must always be a safe and special place.”
The astonishment is that art and theatre and music doesn’t have to be a “safe and special place” when it comes to pulling reactions from audiences. Joy or hatred, “artists by their very nature are supposed to push boundaries,” said Graham Bowley of the New York Times, exposing taboos that many aren’t brave enough to do in conversation.
The arts do something for individuals in the industry that academics can’t: it saves people from committing crimes, associating with drugs, and dropping out of school. Access to art education “showed more civic-minded behavior, with comparatively high levels of volunteering, voting, and engagement with local or school politics,” said a report by the National Endowment for the Arts. Without funding, many students can’t find that safe place that arts education provides.
While the arts aren’t for everyone, taking away arts education, with its benefits to underprivileged students especially, would negate how former President Lyndon B. Johnson passed a legislation declaring that any “advanced civilization,” should fully value the humanities, art, and cultural activity.
Art gives you the most raw form of human experience. Without having the chance to experience that, individuals can be closed off from a world of opportunity that may never be seen again for their lifetime.