The Case for the Value of the Arts

Recently I found myself in a discussion on the value of different careers. By the end of the discussion, the question was posed: “So, what is the role of artists in society, Stephanie?” Then it was added (in words I can’t remember, exactly, so this is paraphrased) that clearly we have a role, as we always have been a part of society.

The question, in part, has always confused me. In my core, I so fundamentally value and understand the value of the arts.

But this is America, and if I’m honest, a whole lot of people don’t understand the value. It’s the first thing cut from funding in our schools and art history is often no more than an elective in college.

This is not true in Europe and parts of Latin America, where the arts have always been held in high regard and people grow up surrounded by it.

The simplest answer to what is the value is: the arts make life worth living. That is the artists’ role. We are the joy suppliers. The question askers. The people who record history visually and in performance and music.

We are providers of culture. What is life without the arts? What would culture be without the artists?

Even the most skeptical among us cannot dispute that art is a dimension of life that makes everything richer, fuller, and more meaningful. What couple doesn’t have “their song”? A painting they bought that they just responded to, or which reminds them of a special place? The arts are the flavor of life.

I hope this encourages you to expose yourself and your loved ones to as much of the arts as possible. And to hold the arts up high. As Winston Churchill said during World War II: If we cut funding to the arts, what are we fighting for?

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