In this era of shrinking budgets, slashing funds for arts education, and threats to arts grants, we are reminded that in the public-policy arena, the arts are still often seen as a luxury. A frivolity.
of us who know better argue that the arts provide something essential
to human beings, that creative expression helps us cope with life's big
questions and challenges. That the arts reach many students in a way
that math and science can't always do.
But you can't quantify
that value, which means that policy-makers still find it easy to
dismiss. So for those looking for another way to make the case, I
recommend Wendy Wasserstein's essay, "The State of the Arts" (which
appears in the collection Shiksa Goddess), in which she includes an economic case for funding the arts:
arts institutions are often pioneers in urban revival. The 'new'
Forty-Second Street--the Disney-restored theaters and entertainment
malls--would not be there today if the arts organizations sponsored by
the National Endowment for the Arts and local arts councils had not
taken the initiative to change the urban landscape."
"Nonprofit arts in America are a thirty-seven-billion-dollar industry."
"I mentioned that I had won a twelve-thousand-dollar grant in 1984, which had aided me in completing The Heidi Chronicles.
In my mind, that's a small investment for a play that ran on Broadway
for two years, toured the country for two years, and kept many people
employed and inner cities lively."
The places we live would be
poorer, spiritually and financially, without our art museums, theaters,
bookstores, libraries, galleries, dance studios, and concert halls.
These places provide employment for many and entertainment for many
more; they provide emotional nourishment and a richness to our