I have a meeting soon with my State Representative. As a Washington State Commissioner for the Arts [ArtsWA] I had met with Norma Smith twice before; once on Arts & Heritage Day in Olympia in 2016 for maybe ten minutes and months later over lunch in her district (my home town). I was thrilled she had the time.
Lunch conversation quickly veered from any political agenda when she opened with the demands of the upcoming state budget being all encompassing, with little funding expected for the arts.
So, we talked about life in the Pacific Northwest, exchanging tidbits of our past to get to know one another better. We shared memories of musical events from childhood and marriage to “Hamilton” on Broadway. We discussed the environment and about the reality that if I held office we would no doubt be on opposite sides of the aisle. But we talked openly and exchanged concerns. Lunch was good.
That was month ago and I will once more be in Olympia for the ArtsWA commission and presenting our hopes for the future to our reps.
I’d like to be inspiring, quoting famous artists and historians about the importance of the arts to humanity. I even did what most people do now pleading their case, I went to Google for an inspirational quote. I hear the arguments (and even agree with them) that children need an education, clean energy is vital, jobs are needed, and oh, yeah, healthcare.
Can I honestly ask Norma and other representatives for funding for “art, music, dance, poetry, prose, and photography” when there are so many, many other needs in the world?
The answer is “YES.” Now more than ever, we need to read about not only the beauty in the world but the devastation. We need to see photographs from misty forests faraway as well as ravaged city blocks in our backyards. We need to hear symphony orchestras reminding us of the triumphant moments in the past and the rap artist combining poetry and rhythm in rapid fire of the daily challenges in the streets. Just as we need food to nourish our bodies to be strong, we need words from poets and authors and orators to share their recollections of the past and their visions for the future.
The answer is “YES.” Adults have been given the tools through education to not only appreciate, but create art. If we don’t share with our children the essence of all kinds of art, we are denying what makes us as humans unique – the ability to express and to feel the gamut of emotions.
I did find a quote. Theresa Bayer, an artist unfamiliar to me until my search, stated, “I don’t think artists can avoid being political. Artists are the proverbial canaries in the coalmine. When we stop singing, it’s a sure sign of repressive times ahead.” Well, it’s impossible to separate my emotions from the current political climate, so I’m singing.
Words are my “thing.” As an artist, I will continue to grow by appreciating other artists, whatever their medium. I will continue to understand the necessity to prioritize needs from the political perspective. But I will no longer question “Why Art?” because for me it is as much a part of me as the air I breathe.