After reviewing yet another study showing the effectiveness of the arts; after another lengthy comment conversation with other artists about that study; and after seeing the study—like so many before it—shared across social media platforms in a desperate attempt to say “We matter!”… I shout, “ENOUGH!”
This. Doesn’t. Work.
This tactic of studies and facts have not significantly improved the perception or consistent integration of the arts in America for decades.
Pie charts and percentages are valuable, but they are cold and—as any scientist will admit—not the bottom line. Also, it’s not the research and documentation that concern me. I think research is fabulous when based on curiosity and expansion of knowledge.
It’s how they are used, these stats, that bother me. The infographics that keep popping up on my feeds are trying to convert those that don’t believe the arts are valid and valuable in everyday life. And no one likes being converted, that’s why religious had such a rough go of it… For centuries.
These stats are also trying to convince the wrong people, the wrong way. Corporations digest charts and graphs, not people. And though corporations may be people, a person is not a corporation. I don’t plan my day by a projection sheet. I feel my day and plan and improvise and plan again.
The arts are deeper than percentages. They are more complicated than 5, 10, 20 year projections. I believe their impact is immeasurable due to this:
The arts live in our emotional intelligence. And this language is a mystery to most of us. So when people (study participants) are asked how an arts degree, play, museum trip, or song affected them most don’t have the words to describe it accurately. Most of us don’t have the awareness to assess and articulate the depth of the impact.
And why don’t we, as a society, have a better grasp on emotional intelligence? Bingo, lack of consistent arts interactions in our daily lives. The reason we need more arts support is the same reason we can’t get arts support.
So, how do we change the state of the arts in our country if not through the gatekeepers of corporations and politics requiring these impotent studies?
Through resonance, tapping into those that already (on whatever level) believe that the arts are a valid form of expression, education, and profession.
Through the people. Through experiences. Through an emotional connection, let’s work on resonating.
I may look at the dietary percentages on my cereal box, but they are not the deciding factor. I decide based on a combination of three things that tap into resonance:
- How it makes me feel physically when I eat it.
- Memories I may have attached to it through past experiences.
- If a friend recommended it.
The arts are like food. A necessity that is culturally specific, drenched in memories, and creating physical reactions in those that partake.
So, enough stats. Enough begging to be validated. The arts are valid. I know that down to my core. Enough!
What to do instead?
– Make your art vital in yourself first and foremost. If you want to make a living at it. Do. You can. Define what “a living” is and get creative.
– Broadcast that vitality in your daily life. Feel it in your entire being and let everyone know.
– Make memories with your community through the arts. This requires a connection, an honest connection.
– Stop wasting your bandwidth speaking to those that aren’t listening. Grab your small group of artists and art enthusiasts and make a noise of celebration of the arts. Then spread it, one by one, through meaningful connections.
I’ve gathered my group here. Come join if you’re ready. Start your own if you’re fired up! Do something that resonates.