Keeping the Arts Alive

Posted on May 12 2010 in Commentary

RichardBieverThis month, Electric Consumer presents the winning works of our annual student art contest. It’s part of our commitment to the community, one of the co-op principles.

In the 13 years we’ve held this contest, I’ve had a chance to meet many of our winning artists. Besides being talented artistically, most of these students have been incredibly sharp in math and science. Research studies confirm this arts-academics connection. These students have proved it.

Yet in every economic downturn, like the one we’re slogging through, the same battle gets waged in school board rooms across the country. When budgets have to be cut, what gets the knife? Most often it’s the arts curriculum because many perceive it as ancillary. Some folks think they’re “pud” courses.

We’ve got to find ways to keep the arts alive in our homes — and in our schools. I don’t know all the challenges facing public education these days, but I do know what I want for my children’s public education. I want my two children taught the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic. But I also want them to be well-rounded. I want them to be imaginative, independent thinkers who can apply those three Rs beyond robotic recitation. These latter qualities often are best instilled and enhanced through the arts.
After all, it was Albert Einstein, poster boy for math and science, who declared, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

I want my kids to be creative problem solvers. I want them to be able to appreciate the beauty of human creation: the music and painting and poetry and photography and architecture. These have the power to stir souls, and make us closer to one another and to God, the ultimate creative mind.

The shared experiences through the arts fill us with wonder and a sense of history. How drab life would be without music and art. The arts help make life worth living.

Some creative solutions to school budget problems were highlighted in last September’s Electric Consumer cover story. Some schools are saving a lot of money by committing to energy-saving philosophies, programs and devices. Lafayette’s Tippecanoe School Corporation, working with its local electric cooperative, was saving an average of almost $93,000 a month abiding by a new “energy ethic.” That’s over $1 million a year in tax dollars not spent on energy but kept within the corporation for education. I hope this includes the arts.

It’s easier to amputate than it is to operate. But every limb has its purpose to keep us whole. Remove the arts — the heart — from public education, and eventually the blood will stop flowing to the brain. Finding ways to maintain the arts and give our kids something beautiful to read, write and ruminate about is essential. The future of creative thought is at stake.