Monday, January 19, 2009

On the Eve of the Inauguration

I know there are many more pressing matters that our new President will have to face, but I hope that he takes more than one page from the FDR playbook, while looking to solve our problems. As everyone hacks away at budgets, the artists become the canaries in the coal mine. If all the monies are pulled from the arts, where will our next artists come from ? If museums close their doors, how will we share our culture ? If  libraries curtail their hours and purchases, where will we  hear the voices of creativity ? If symphonies close their doors, where will be the music of our civilization ? Art is an integral part of everything and yet it is the least funded. When looking at state budgets it is often remarked that the arts bring in more monies than sports and yet, where is the new Art Stadium ? Remember the artists, Mr. President, when they are all gone civilization will not be far behind. 

Extract from the address by President Roosevelt at the dedication on March 17, 1941 of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

"There was a time when the people of this country would not have thought that the inheritance of art belonged to them or that they had responsibilities to guard it. A few generations ago, the people of this country were taught by their writers and by their critics and by their teachers to believe that art was something foreign to America and to themselves - something imported from another continent and from an age which was not theirs - something they had no part in, save to go to see it in a guarded room on holidays or Sundays.
But recently, within the last few years, they have discovered that they have a part. They have seen in their own towns, in their own villages, in schoolhouses, in post offices, in the back rooms of shops and stores, pictures painted by their sons, their neighbors - people they have known and lived beside and talked to. They have seen, across these last few years, rooms full of paintings by Americans, walls covered with the paintings of Americans - some of it good, some of it no good, but all of it native, human, eager and alive - all of it painted by their own kind in their own country, and painted about things they know and look at often and have touched and loved.
The people of this country know now, whatever they were taught or thought they knew before, that art is not something just to be owned, but something to be made; that it is the act of making and not the act of owning which is art. And knowing this they know also that art is not a treasure in the past or an importation from another country, but part of the present life of all the living and creating peoples - all who make and build; and, most of all, the young and vigorous peoples who have made an built our present wide country.

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