Brown Paper Packages

Brown Paper Packages

We’re going to take a little departure this week, and I’m going to post an Op-Ed piece that ran in the Seattle Times recently. It’s about the irony of raising money for arts and for youth. When cities spend millions on institutions to house art, or pride themselves on the artists or musicians that work locally and define their cities, they (the city, its inhabitants) rarely spend any sort of comparable funding on arts education, or arts programming. Quite an interesting dilemma. Anyway, here’s the lovely Lisa Fitzhugh from ArtsCorps taking the issue on. And yes, its Seattle-orientated, but it’s universial. After you read, I’ve rewarded you with some bunny photos from the Tour de Nez, and a blurb on a rad silkscreen CD site. More photos from Saturday’s event here.

Sculpture Park? Museum? We’re not done yet, Seattle
By Lisa Fitzhugh, Special to The Times

This spring, the Seattle Art Museum set a record for the number of community events held to celebrate its downtown expansion, inarguably the latest, and brightest, feather in Seattle’s ever-growing cap.

If you haven’t gone, get there soon — before hordes of visitors from hither and yon descend upon us to take in this monument to human experience. Yes,the new art museum is superlative in almost every way. There is no disputing it.

Yet, the opening of both the Olympic Sculpture Park and the new museum exposes a deep and glaring irony about this worldly city.

While we have created masterpieces on the waterfront and at First Avenue and Union Street, our children receive only the barest minimum of any kind of arts education.

While the artwork of diverse communities now lives in a spectacularly appointed new home across from the soon-to-be Four Seasons Hotel complex, the children of our diverse communities go to school every day in uninspired buildings, and 60 percent of them have no visual-arts program.

And, while we can raise $200 million to create a civic space of exceptional beauty that communicates the full range of human experience, we can’t seem to raise just 2 percent of that to fill the gap and enable all children to actually participate in the full range of human experience through a rich arts education.

So, no, Seattle, we are not done yet.

Just because we prioritized the building of structures for art over the building of souls for the future does not mean we can’t do both. We can invest in arts education for every child in the Seattle Public Schools. We just have to make it a priority.

And we’re talking the real stuff — two hours a week learning an art form with people who practice the art form. A real arts education is not working on a mural for a few weeks once a year with an artist-in-residence. Nor is it an occasional field trip to the museum.

A real arts education is a long-term engagement with the most powerful human force in history — creativity. This force has found a positive outlet in the songs, poetry, architecture, designs and rituals of every culture in the world.

Real arts education is historically rich, cognitively sophisticated and deeply relevant to a child’s understanding of the world. And real arts education offers a student an opportunity to practice some of the most powerful tools in the human skill set — our creative capacities: capacities such as imagination, persistence, tolerance for ambiguity, reflection and metaphorical thinking.

These are the capacities required to create in any art form. These are what you would see being practiced by students and teachers alike in a quality arts classroom. These are also the capacities required to build successful relationships, to lead a self-determined life. The opportunity to develop these capacities is not a luxury. We cannot thrive in life without them.

Without them, students learn the basics but can’t connect them meaningfully to the world around them. Without them, students learn the rules but fail to develop an understanding of who they are as unique contributors to the world. Without them — without the creative capacities that will define the next chapter in human evolution — you’re as good as lost.

Past arguments made on behalf of arts education have failed to inspire this community to action. Investment in arts education is not compelling because it will develop future audiences for the new arts spaces we have built in the past 10 years. It is also not compelling because it “can help the handful of students who can’t seem to learn any other way.”

Investment in arts education is compelling because it helps every child to imagine a future rife with possibility. It helps every child develop the persistence to pursue his or her dreams. It helps every child tolerate the uncertainty of life on this planet. It helps every child hone a capacity to reflect on his or her experiences and to learn from them. And it helps every child sharpen his or her power to communicate metaphorically, the most powerful communication tool that exists.

Plain and simple, investment in arts education offers us some hope of a more egalitarian future. And for just 2 percent of what it just cost to build a world-class museum and outdoor sculpture park, who could say no?

No, Seattle, we are not done yet.

Lisa Fitzhugh is founder and executive director of Arts Corps, a Seattle-based nonprofit bringing arts education classes to K-12 students throughout King County.

As promised, there are the bunnies, and here is the CD site. I’m not sure how useful it is , but it looks pretty dang fun. It’s sort of like playing dolls or dress up for music geeks. The company is called 5 Inch, and you basically get to pick original designs to slap onto blank CDs, and then they print them and ship ’em to you. You be the judge.