I was stunned to see a headline reporting decreased NEA funding for PBS when I went to read today’s edition of “The New York Times.” Seems the National Endowment for the Arts is shifting some of its funding to newer vehicles for delivering arts to the masses, something I’ve been reading about of late in a RAND report (also a book) called “The Performing Arts in a New Era” — which is authored by Kevin F. McCarthy, Arthur Brooks, Julia Lowell and Laura Zakaras.
I’ll be hitting the NEA website later today, after wrapping a meeting with my bookwriting partner, to learn more about the specifics of NEA funding decisions. I don’t doubt that those they’ve funded are deserving, but I’d be remiss as a mom if I didn’t share the tremendous journeys I’ve enjoyed with my children through the years thanks to PBS programming.
I often hear that young children aren’t terribly interested in sitting through symphony, opera or dance productions. But that was never my experience as a young parent. I grew up watching the Boston Pops (then conducted by Arthur Fiedler) with my mother — and introduced my childen at a young age to both live orchestral music and PBS performances featuring classical music and vocalists.
Holidays like the 4th of July were always marked by watching PBS broadcasts together, curled up in the dark before the television that took us to places we’d never experience otherwise. When my children were too young to sit still for a live concert, PBS was there with programming we’d watch without worry of bothering folks in nearby seats.
Later, they’d call on these experiences to appreciate the wonders of live theater, music and dance within our own community. PBS might feel old school to folks raised in the digital age, but it’s still a brand new world for parents eager to explore arts and culture with their children. Even today, I watch PBS arts programming with my college age children — and rarely miss “Charlie Rose” interviews with exceptional actors, playwrights and other artists.
Still, we’ve done more than simply watch the arts unfold around us. We’ve also learned to create our own works of art by watching PBS programming. And fueled interests in other areas, from history to anthropology. I was surprised, while watching a recent series on the art of quilting, by the depth of American history reflected in the art form we too often think of as merely stitching together fabric squares.
I’ve seen works of art in museums the world over that I first enjoyed while watching a show on PBS, and owe much of my own art literacy to PBS arts programming. For some PBS might feel like the home it’s time to move away from, but every mother knows that only her roots make her children’s wings possible. So while NEA and others are giving wings to other organizations who deliver the arts into our homes and classrooms, I hope they’ll do justice to PBS.
PBS was my first home for arts and culture, and I’ll never stop going home again.
Note: KAET TV (Eight), the PBS affiliate in Phoenix, is currently holding its first online auction, which raises funds for local programming — click here for details.
Coming up: Once upon a playwright, Young voices rise in Arizona