Jack the dog is incapable of resetting his internal clock when it’s vacation time, and so it was that I came to have the tv on at 5:45am on Sunday. I wasn’t sure whether to wake the household up laughing, throw tennis shoes at the screen, or take an antidepressant. 30 seconds of… “Starving artist sale at Holiday Inn at Crabtree Mall. Oil paintings as low as $19.”
Pity is not a friend of the arts. Such messages invoke dear friends and respected artists huddled on interstate exits trying to catch the eye of hurried drivers. And in the game of public funding, we will never win the “need” game, not in this economy. Not with education cut 10% and Health and Human Services cut 30%. Can you imagine the arts threatening to file a lawsuit against the state for lack of funding as is possible by the Mental Health sector?
A transformative event happened five years ago. ARTS North Carolina thought our job was to convince “others” of our public value. So we produced a still relevant dvd that asked citizens, “Why do you think the arts are important?” The work of art (dvd) that answered this question still has the power to move as it reminds us that we must first believe. Are we absolutely convinced beyond a shadow that what we do is essential, not just “nice”? Do we approach each day with a sense of urgency that what we have to say cannot wait? Are we compelled to tell others? Are our stories straight and our facts in order? Does our message center on what we bring to the world, not what the world should bring to us?
For those old enough to remember the culture wars of Jesse Helms and the NEA attack, there was one question/answer I will take to my grave. Why was the movement successful? How could vitriolic attacks on art gain such support and momentum? And one day, like a vision, it came to me on public radio. People are drawn to passion, and the extremes offer all the passion you can misuse in a lifetime.
So my New Year’s resolution? Bring on the naysayers. I’ll match you passion for passion and raise you one.
ARTS North Carolina
Please Visit the New Theatre North Carolina
6 years ago