Devastating Impact

I recently purchased an Internet radio, so am now about to access (without charge) my favorite public radio stations from throughout the US.  One theme that I hear on all of them is that proposed public (government) funding cuts will have a devastating impact — on them, on whom, to what extent, etc.?

I am sure these proposed funding cuts will have a profound impact on each of these stations, and that I will be worse off because of them, but these stations, and arts advocates throughout the US, must tell us what comprises a devastating impact.  Without specifics, these calls for help sound like calls of desperation, or worse yet, like whining.  With so many Americans having been personally devastated by the economic crisis, arts organizations facing governmental funding cuts had either offer a better argument (than devastation) or find other strategies to continue their excellent work.

The “instrumental” arguments for funding for the arts are tired (economic development, arts education impact on other learning, etc.), and arts advocates are afraid to talk about intrinsic value.  But, finding language and arguments that support the intrinsic value of the arts is the only true vehicle for establishing validity and societal value.

Many enlightened individuals and service organizations have utilized stories to illustrate the arts’ intrinsic value, avoiding the difficult task of finding convincing abstract language.  Perhaps the story strategy will prove effective — surely it will have some positive impact.  This being said, I could not feel more strongly that it’s time for us to dive in the cold water and make our case with language and arguments that speak clearly, and unashamedly about the value of our field.

About the author

James Undercofler

Jim has been a Professor at Drexel University since May, 2009. His previous appointment - since August, 2007 - was as the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Jim was Dean of the Eastman School of Music from 1997 to 2007. He has played a prominent role in musical arts and music education throughout his career. Before joining Eastman in 1995 as associate director for academic affairs and professor of music education, he was an active, performing chamber musician as well as first horn in the New Haven Symphony. Jim serves as board president, American Music Center; advisory board member, Arts Education Policy Review; board member, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, New York State Association of College Music Programs and American Symphony Orchestra League, and is a founding member, NETWORK of Performing and Visual Arts Schools and Mercury Opera of Rochester.

Read James Undercofler's blog [l=]here[/l].

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