Art In America
The arts in the United States of America are something that should be considered a priority by not only the citizens of the country but also the government. While some may consider the arts an expendable luxury, others consider them priceless beyond measure. Due to the arts playing an integral part of society, they must be preserved.
According to the second edition of How the United States Funds the Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts, a very small percentage of money comes from the federal government in the form of funding for the arts. “Only about 13 percent of arts support in the U.S. came from the government, and only about 9 percent from the federal government.” ("How The United States Funds the Arts" v) This is a drop in the bucket when considering the size of our nation. The vast majority of funding comes from box office receipts and private donations. For an expendable luxury, the public go to great lengths to ensure the survival of theater, museums, symphonies, and other forms of art outlets.
What the Arts Provide
The arts allow us to experience that which is most human; emotion. They move us to cry, to laugh, to feel sorrow and to feel joy. They, in essence, allow us witness and partake in living more effectively. To appreciate that which we have and the things we strive towards. In American culture, the arts are a reflection of current events, a way to preserve history, a reaction to an event and also an escape from them. After the unfathomable events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, art was there. Take for example Eric Fishcl’s sculpture called Tumbling Woman. It was shown for less than a week in 2002 while people were still trying to come to grips with the events that had transpired. Fischl had made the sculpture as a tribute to the many who had suffered and died. The sculpture was removed due to complaints, however even this one stark bronze figure was enough to stir something within the people who, for less than a week, were able to view it. “It was intended as an attempt to capture one important aspect of the day, which was human suffering, and it did that in a representational, irony-free visual language that a broad public could understand and respond to. If it made some people uncomfortable, it was supposed to do that too. Pain is something art can speak to, but sometimes it has to do it in the language of pain.” (Lacayo 1)
In Our Own Backyard
On a smaller scale these same themes play out here at University Park with the Center of Performing Arts, The Palmer Museum, courses such as INART 005: Performing Arts and even local PBS station WPSU. They bring art and performances to the masses. Some of the art forms are stationary and permanent such as the museum while others are fleeting such as a musical or play. Once completed, that specific performance is gone forever and will only live on in memory.
Because of the arts, people are able to have uncomfortable conversations that might not have happened without them. For example, The Laramie Project and The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later were recently at Eisenhower Auditorium. These plays too an in depth look into the murder of Matthew Shepherd and the effect that it had on the town, both during the trials and then 10 years after the events took place. These plays are not easy to sit through. These are not shows that are seen to escape reality, but to witness and live it. It’s important for plays like this to exist because they allow us to view and take part our history. They, along with pieces of art such as The Tumbling Woman are much more serious in nature than a comedy show or a beautiful painting. They speak to us on the level of our gut by making us react to them. They evoke our emotions.
While it is true that venues such as Eisenhower Auditorium are relatively small compared to other locations on campus (such as Beaver Stadium or the Bryce Jordan Center) it is not the size of the venue that matters, it’s the art which they are producing and making available to expose as many people as possible to the message they have to give.
How It's Paid For
This is perhaps why so many organizations request donations. WPSU conducts drives by showing movies and interrupting them to ask for pledges of support. Inside each program at a performance at the Eisenhower Auditorium there is a list of donors and references on how you too can donate. On the Palmer Museum’s website they link to a page and ask you to join them in friendship by donating money to their establishment “Don’t let the Palmer go it alone... be a friend” their website reads. It is because of things like this that these art forms persist. According to the NEA’s 2004 data, 43% of revenue came from private sources with 31% of that money coming from individuals who donated it. ("How the United States Funds the Arts" 1) This type of response demonstrates that the public of America get it. They understand that the arts are an integral part of our society not only for entertainment value but for the preservation of our selves and our history. The arts define where we as a society have come and where we are heading.
United States. How The United States Funds The Arts. Washington, D.C.: National Endowment for the Arts, 2007. Web. 25 Oct 2010. <http://www.nea.gov/pub/how.pdf>.
Lacayo, Richard. "9/11 Art - Looking Around." Time 12 Sep 2007: 1. Web. 25 Oct 2010. <http://lookingaround.blogs.time.com/2007/09/12/911_art/>.