I believe that participating in the arts makes us better citizens, not just better people, but full contributors to the civic life of our communities. I believe that supporting the arts is like voting: It is a civic act that takes you out of your house for a shared experience with the community. It makes you feel better about yourself and it contributes to the common wealth of our society.
At a time when Americans spend countless hours in front of video screens, on highways or cocooned in their homes, I believe that the arts provide essential opportunities for us to reconnect with community. Our culture is not produced in major cities for export to the rest of the country; it is generated by thousands of regional community-based organizations close by. These organizations create art that is specific to a place and a people. Many are professional, most are volunteers, but they all share a desire to celebrate our humanity.
I believe that when you experience a work of art it becomes a part of who you are as a person for the rest of your life. Think about your favorite piece of music, the brush strokes of a painting you love or the performance of an actor that moved you. Those memories are not static data like a multiplication table; they are stored as living, visceral experiences that can summon emotions and connections to times and places throughout our lives.
Those connections are essential for our society to thrive. They are the basis of our understanding of how we fit into our families, our communities and the cosmos. They increase our understanding of other cultures and other perspectives. They allow us to honor our common bonds.
When leaders talk about the arts they tend to focus on financial impact. But I believe the more lasting benefit of the arts is this: A community that participates in regional arts activities will come to know that creativity, spirituality and community are inextricably bound together. Those bonds are the foundation of good citizenship and the hallmarks of a thriving republic.
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