I look at the issues of childhood arts education and the adult oriented ‘facts & figures’ about them as representing two very different ways of attempting to build support for the arts: We give children the opportunity to experience the arts firsthand, but then when we discuss the arts with adults we try to blow them away with rationally formulated arguments….. Does anyone else see that what was so effective in bringing the importance of the arts to children usually gets traded out for our ability to convince adults with reason? Which, we may have noticed, doesn’t always work so well with other passionate issues, like politics and religion….. And which is perhaps also why we don’t spend as much time lecturing children about the statistical or economic importance of the arts but instead give them opportunities to get a feel for what the arts are all about and give it a place in their own lives….
My point is only that rationality may have significantly less persuasive power than we are hoping for, and yet it seems to be the most significant tool we have for recruiting adults. I just wonder how many adult supporters of the arts were not profoundly moved at some stage by a personal experience of the arts? How many were converted to a belief in the importance of the arts by purely rational means? And even if we convince folks using reason, will their ties to the arts ever be as deep or as binding as ones formed through personal practical investment?
It just seems that as kids EVERYONE is an artist, and we know why the arts are important. There is no real doubt. Doubt comes later…. We don’t need to be convinced. Being creative is what we do and who we are. And yet, as adults we lose touch with those feelings and experiences which gave the arts their importance in our lives. We too often trade an active involvement in creativity and the production of art for merely the consumption of other people’s art. How well has that worked so far?
What I’m suggesting is that our adult advocacy and education seems focused on things that no child was ever enthusiastic about. And yet they WERE enthusiastic about art. If we help adults rediscover that source of enthusiasm we may have taken the single largest step forward in solving our problem. Instead of needing to find a rationally acceptable place for the arts within our communities we will find the community of arts within ourselves. Remembering that I too am an artist gives me all the motivation I need to support the arts and recognize its importance. We find art by looking towards the center. Think of it as a sort of Copernican Revolution in how we look at our advocacy (though in reverse). How do we prevent adults from forgetting that as children they were artists, and that as adults they still retain this creative capacity?
Is it any wonder that our rational advocacy either ends up preaching to the choir, those who already get art’s importance, or falling on deaf ears, those for whom art has lost all importance….? And is it any wonder that those lines divide quite neatly on the issue of what role art plays in these people’s lives?
Something to think about, at least…..
Make beauty real!