Thursday, March 15, 2007

What's Art Got To Do With It?

Last night I was looking for something my wife wanted me to pick up at Hobby Lobby and I saw one of those rubber stamps with a line on it that when roughly like this…. “Art washes the soul of the dust of life.”

There is a tendency for people to view art as something superfluous or even a luxury. While I admit, if it were a choice of giving my family food to eat or art, I’d have to choose food. However, if we choose to view art in the context of the quote on the rubber stamp, it seems particularly sad to think that those who are less fortunate, who have to give up something for food or say are too disadvantaged to have health care, may well lack something that cleanses the soul of life’s grime. So what is the value of art? Is it really only for the upper crust of society?

Recently, the metropolitan Kansas City area established something for art that parallels United Way. It’s a workplace-based fundraising campaign designed to support arts and culture. The regional ArtsKC Fund as it is know has been stated as a test program with originally 27 area workplaces that will allow employees to sign on to have “x” amount withheld each pay period to supports arts in the community. The program was just launched in February so I have no idea how well it is being received. The idea is not totally new, as I believe there are some 100 communities across the U.S. that have undertaken similar ventures.

So what’s the value of such an undertaking is in a major City? Why would businesses sign on to something like this? A recent article in BusinessWeek indicates there is a connection between the growth of art communities and economic development in a city. It cites many instances where communities which were once art havens have become upscale and now too pricey for many struggling artists. If you accept the premise of this article, cities should clamor at the opportunity to support and enhance the development of artists within their city limits on the basis of return on their investment. Much in the same way many cities now view professional sports franchises. Cleansing the soul of that community would just be icing on the cake.
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