Tag Archives: Juan Williams

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?

Stop the “Glee” bashing!

Once upon a slushie-fest with characters from the hit Fox television series "Glee" (Credit: FOX)

A longtime correspondent recently lost his NPR gig after sharing on the air the uneasiness he sometimes feels when seeing fellow airplane travelers dressed in Muslim garb.

America is full of what we’ve come to term “minorities” — those we identify with groups not readily accepted by everyone in mainstream American culture.

The recent media attention on suicides among bullied youth, including gay teens, is another case in point.

And it got me wondering…

Would you be wary of a fellow passenger simply for wearing a pro marriage equality t-shirt? If you’re an atheist, should you fear fellow travelers donning a cross dangling on a necklace?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and offer a resounding “no.” No more than you need fear a racy photo shoot by adult actors who portray glee club teens on television.

I’m a bit surprised to find myself coming to the defense of “Glee” on this one, but not for the reasons you might suspect. I’d given up trying to watch the show this year given the many competing demands for my time.

Still, my daughter tapes each episode — inviting me in recent weeks to watch them along with her. Between homework and housework, it’s taken us a while to get to them.

But several nights ago, while commentators were uber-analyzing Juan Williams’ fate, I sat side by side with my teenage daughter on a cozy little couch to catch up on episode three of this season’s “Glee.”

“Glee” routinely deals with issues some folks would rather not discuss — teen pregnancy, sexual orientation and religious identity among them.

I was pleased to see “Glee” tackle the issue of teens who self-identify as atheists. When a heart attack leaves Kurt’s father at death’s door, we learn that Kurt is doubly blessed in the bigotry department.

The character Kurt, long known to audience members as a gay teen, is also an atheist teen — and he struggles when friends of faith try to comfort him with prayer and talk of a higher power.

Many people associate Arizona with a different minority — the Latino/Hispanic community that will likely hold the majority in another generation or so.

But those who spend time with teens from diverse backgrounds know that the Valley also is home to an active teen LGBTQ population as well as an active atheist community.

I don’t give a twit about what “Glee” cast members wear during “GQ” photo shoots. They’re grown ups. They’re artists. They’re private citizens, not public commodities.

The real “Glee” tragedy is that superficial issues like magazine spreads garner more attention, and discussion, than the very real issues teens struggle with today.

They wrestle with the same issue we did while growing up — self-identity. Sometimes that involves sexuality. Sometimes that involves religion. Sometimes that involves conflicted feelings about family or friends.

And sometimes, as every loyal “Glee” fan knows, that involves slushies.

I’m not here to tell you how to feel about any of these issues. As every experienced parent knows, we all have to make our own way in the world.

But I can tell you that I’m grateful for “Glee” because it’s a conversation starter. And meaningful conversations are something we all need more of these days.

— Lynn