Election wipeout?

Don't let arts funding go the way of this surfer...

I’ve heard pundits and politicians banter about jobs, health care and education to no end. All issues worthy of discussion — but not the only ones voters should consider as they head to the polls on Tuesday.

I recently heard someone suggest we wipe out funding for the National Endowment for the Arts because monies from the federal program somehow crossed paths with the controversial art of Robert Mapplethorpe.

After National Public Radio let Juan Williams go following remarks about his own discomfort with airline passengers in Muslim garb, some called for the withdrawal of NPR’s federal funding.

It left me wondering…

Where do various politicians stand on the issue of arts and culture? I’m heartened by President Obama’s apparent passion and support for the arts, but I rarely hear arts discussed as an important public policy issue.

So do the arts matter to voters when they’re choosing between competing candidates and pieces of legislation? And should they?

“It always matters,” insists Catherine “Rusty” Foley, interim executive director of Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts. And it’s not too late to enjoy a quick course in ‘arts advocacy 101′ before you head to the polls.

Never fear if you’ve already cast your ballot. Arizona arts and culture need ongoing support — so lovers of all sorts or visual and performing arts are wise to get educated, and active, in the issues that face us each day.

What is the value of the arts? How do art and education intersect? Why is funding at the local, state and federal level so important? What can citizens do to make a difference?

Arizona legislative candidates have differing views and positions on the role and importance of arts and culture in our communities.

It’s helpful to know at least a bit about each candidate’s level of appreciation for the arts, often a reflection of their own experiences with the arts as a child or adult — and about their record of public support for the arts.

You’ll find results of a candidate survey conducted by Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts, and a Congressional arts report card, at www.azcitizensforthearts.org.

You’ll also find information on how school boards, bonds and overrides impact arts funding — all good things to know before you head to the polls.

The worst-case scenario for arts advocates would be election results that lead to a wipeout of arts funding. “A certain level of cutting may be necessary,” admits Foley, “but we can’t wipe out the arts sector and hope to rebuild it later.”

Beware the wipeout, urges Foley, because the arts sector would be harder to rebuild than anyone realizes. And its importance to the overall economy, though often underestimated, is great.

“Arts and culture are a critical part of economic recovery,” reflects Foley. They create jobs, boost tourism and enhance quality of life. They matter, and they all need us to take this message with us into — and beyond — the voting booth.

– Lynn

Note: Additional information about the arts and humanities in Arizona is available from the Arizona Commission on the Arts at www.azarts.gov and the Arizona Humanities Council at www.azhumanities.org.

Coming up: Review of “Hard Love” performed by Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, Celebrating Diwali in the Valley, All the world’s a…circus?

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