As the Indiana General Assembly works to draft a new budget, the Indiana Coalition for the Arts is reminding residents of why the arts are important to our lives and worthy of public support.
• The arts define a sense of place and identity for communities across our state.
• The arts promote understanding and an open exchange of ideas and values.
• The arts attract new businesses and talented professionals to the state.
• The arts draw visitors, which generates tax revenue and jobs.
• The arts make a community more livable.
• The arts help improve grades and student attendance.
• The arts break down racial stereotypes, religious barriers and socioeconomic prejudices.
We are in a recession. Aren't the arts expendable?
Every program and department in the public system must share in the burden created by the recession. However, each program also should be judged on its ability to help our economy in the recovery, both short and long term. The arts have many benefits, tangible and intangible, that must not be overlooked.
The arts must be accessible in a community, especially during a recession when workers are being challenged to learn new skills and perhaps move to other parts of the state to find meaningful and gainful employment.
The arts -- and arts education -- must be integrated into all aspects of community life. Arts education, whether in a school setting or through community programs and partnerships, is one way to achieve this accessibility. Without a strong emphasis on arts and culture, thousands of future residents will suffer the repercussions for a generation.
In North Carolina, legislation for a new Arts Education Task Force passed unanimously. On the last day of June, Gov. Beverly Perdue signed the 2010-11 state budget into law. In the current economy, the expectation for arts funding ordinarily would be low. However, anyone following the recent advocacy for arts education would know that Perdue's cabinet made creative growth a top priority for the state government.
ARTS North Carolina's project, Senate Bill 66, unanimously passed in the state Senate. The bill requires a task force to create a plan for arts education in North Carolina public schools, starting in kindergarten and requiring arts classes for high school graduation.
To take action on encouraging your legislators to continue to support the arts in Indiana, visit the Indiana Coalition for the Arts website -- http://www.inartscoalition.org -- and click on the Arts Action Center link on the menu.
John Cain is executive director of South Shore Arts. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.