There’s been a lot of talk this week, in the wake of the State of the Union address, about Steve Jobs telling President Obama, “Those jobs aren’t coming back.” People are finally catching on to the ideas that 1) we need to have blue collar jobs housed here in America, and 2) we are going to have to invent an entirely new type of manufacturing to do it. This should not come as any surprise to anyone …except perhaps Congress who seems to think job creation is going of materialize out of thin air, and we’re going to retrain millions of unemployed workers for those magical mystical jobs.
I was thinking about the children of our friends: Ariel Strasser finishing at Boston Conservatory but cutting demos as fast as she can, Jeffrey Baldinger in LA who is working his way through comedy clubs, and Jacob Grun who plays in all sorts of bands while running his own studio. All of them know art doesn’t come with health insurance, and in fact, neither do a lot of the day jobs. They take gigs as they come. They revel in applause; it’s air in their lungs; it’s the very sound of breathing.
We hear Madonna and we think all singers have it made. They do not. We see Tom Hanks and think all actors are paid that way. They are not. And we read J.K. Rowling and think all authors get rich from royalties. We do not. Too many journey-people plying their crafts not only aren’t rich from their efforts, they live on a fragile shoestring. You know that old saw, “Don’t quit your day job?” Well, most of us cannot afford to quit our day jobs to pursue our craft full time even if we wanted to. That doesn’t mean we’re not good at what we do, it means we’re just not famous ….yet.
In the midst of this, the pathway to artistic expression is being strangled. Cuts in education have curtailed art and music in more schools that not…usually unemploying artists who are trying to keep that day job. In the process, we stop teaching our kids to write, much less wright creatively. We will lose untold numbers of musicians because they will never get to try that clarinet or violin, or sing in a chorus. If Mozart was a kid in your average American inner city school, it’s pretty unlikely he would’ve become the Mozart we know….because he would not have had the opportunity to explore music.
Art, music, theater, poetry, creative writing….all these things used to be introduced in grade school. We are raising a generation who has never had a school assembly where a children’s theatre troop has come to perform. They’ve never set foot in a museum because schools can no longer afford field trips. Kids who have never been in a museum are less likely to visit them as adults. No exposure will ultimately result in the slow death of many of our cherished cultural institutions because we are not developing audiences to support them.
Nor are kids developing the ability to sit through something that doesn’t rise and fall in 7 minute cycles, the action time between commercials. Already we see people texting or playing ANGRY BIRDS while sitting in a theater because they can’t concentrate that long on a live performance or a film. Their attention span is frighteningly narrow.
In the quest for more jobs and new technology, we cannot lose sight of another whole classification of seemingly old-fashioned jobs that still deserve our notice, not to mention our support. We need artists, writers, composers, singers and the rest. There need to be grants to encourage creative endeavors, but at the same time we must continually educate our kids and communities that art is an intrinsic part of our cultural heritage and must be supported by attendance, community membership, and most important, active participation.
As we continue the conversation about where to spend our tax dollars, we should not be excising art, music and literature from their places at the table. We do need more engineers, we do need more scientists, but at the same time we need those people who provide entertainment, beauty, and relief from the daily grind.
Lose artists, and lose the soul of our unique American expression. Without it, we are flat and colorless; and once gone, we will not be able to PhotoShop it back into the picture.
Wifely Person S Tip O'the Week
Instead of taking in a picture show, buy a ticket to a live performance.
Just like being there doesn't compare to actually being there.