This week, the Kennedy Center is celebrating 50 years of American promotion of the arts.
People forget how much goodness is fostered in society by culture and entertainment.
In Charles Dickens’ “Hard Times”, one of his shorter novels often taught in schools, Mr. Sleary, who runs a circus, says people need to be amused. They can’t always be working or learning. They’re not built that way. By the end of the story, we know Sleary is right.
Many school systems facing budget deficits have targeted the arts as the first place to cut, even though many studies show exposure to music leads to higher math comprehension.
On Capitol Hill too, politicians have declared that with all the problems we have, culture is not a necessity that needs funding.
But, do we need the arts in times of hardship? Maybe more so than in times without problems.
Public Broadcasting is under attack once again in the US Congress, with calls to cancel federal funding. But the world would be a little colder without Elmo, less informed without the NewsHour, less inspirred without ‘In Performance at the White House’, and a little less patriotic on July Fourth without the ability to watch the fireworks and Marine Band playing live on the National Mall.
Perhaps no president in American history celebrated the arts more visibly than John F. Kennedy, who said, “I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business and statecraft.”
This was a time when there were almost no regional theaters in America — or dance companies, or operas. There was no government support for the arts or humanities, no National Endowment for the Arts. Indeed, the nation’s capital had no John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
(READ or LISTEN to the inspiring story of JFK and Arts Advancement at NPR.org)