Hey, readers! Your weekly dose of the Jaradoa Blog is coming from Jen today:

Just yesterday, Brian, a friend with whom I studied theater in college posted this status on his facebook page:

“When people are starving and out of work, why should the government fund the arts?”

Now, Brian’s incredibly thoughtful and a great lover of art, and he asked the question in order to start a discussion on a topic that’s pretty vital in this economic climate. Unsurprisingly, it resulted in a wide range of comments:

Tim: “Because some people are artists.”

RJ: “And many artists are among the broke and starving…”

Brian: “I’m not trying to be generally patronizing. For example: Right now NYS has to cut every part of the budget–including basic health and education for children. I think it was easier to argue the value arts bring to society in times of prosperity. If a $20k production of West Side Story at a 501c3 could pay a cast and crew of college graduated theater artists for a month or a keep a few underprivileged families fed for a year… should I write letters to my local government asking to fund the theater? It’s a serious question.”

Jen: “Because the arts are for everyone to enjoy, not just those with money to burn. No government funding for the arts=arts only for the elite. In my book, most objectionable are cuts to arts education. Studies have shown that an education rich in the arts leads to better scores all around (and presumably, more well-rounded kids.)”

Brady: “I feel like art is important, but I feel that it should come after kids being fed. That being said, there are plenty of places for NYS budget to trim…the budget is flipping ridiculous, with lots of waste.”

Brian: “Jen — So arts=education? That’s something I could get behind. But why aren’t the arts valuable enough to the general population to pay for themselves the way commercial media does?

Brady: “That’s kinda what raised the question for me. When I left SUNY over a year ago, tuition money was already going to bail out other parts of the State (and not towards anything on campus, as students would expect). No cost of living raises for public employees (except where unions were able to push it through). Cuts in funding for mass transit led to MTA fare hike. We’ve heard about debt and cuts all year long. Now schools, hospitals, public services, and… at the end of the list… the arts. Where’s the fat?”

Mary: “Art education puts the rest of the world into perspective with a sense of history, creativity, and integrity . I think it is one of the genuinely most important subjects for a society.
Having said that, if all funding goes towards art education, and nothing towards job development or employment, where is the means to spread your education to those less-informed? You have to be able to take what you know and apply it.”

This led to so much discussion in the office — the economic impact of the arts, how our spending reflects our values, what it means to be human. Thoughts?