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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Respect and the arts - thoughts on Sarah Jones

I've been thinking a lot about the Sarah Jones incident. By all accounts, Sarah Jones was doing her job appropriately and responsibly, but it seems that she was put into a dangerous situation by those in charge. It's possible that she may have very well saved others' lives - if the train derailed because of the camera equipment and bed on the track, it would have been catastrophic. It is a tragic situation and I feel for all of those involved.

 However, I do think it touches on a larger issue in the creative industry and in our culture. As a culture, we do not respect the arts and by extension, creative workers - arts funding especially in education is up and down. (the point is, arts, much like other "social" programs in the US, are always under pressure - seen as ancillary rather than as a important and required part of a modern culture).  All types of art share commonalities when it comes to a lack of funding and its impact on creating a creative workforce. True, there are exceptions but overall I read so many reports of schools losing arts programs, funding being cut, etc.; equaling a lack of support.   

This lack of consistent funding and being left to the whims of political parties and private corporations encourages a devaluation of everyone involved in creative work (because if we valued it more, we would fund it more). Children see that arts aren't important - if they even have arts classes, the classes may be short or rotating with another subject, teachers may not be qualified to teach them (or be forced to teach other subjects so that they can also teach arts topics),  and equipment may be lacking. In grade school, I remember wanting a color for my pottery that was outside of the 3 colors we had; I (well, my parents) had to pay for it, if I was going to use it. I went to a good school with arts programs. The harsh reality is that for most students, art classes are not given the same weight as math, science, and the "core" classes.

Yet, as we shift towards a more visual culture weighted in multimedia, we need workers who have a basic understanding and appreciation of the arts. We need technology workers and scientists who can think outside of the box. We need creative thinkers and problem solvers. We need a population who are not just consumers of art (often created by underpaid workers) but PRODUCERS of art.  We need a population that is culturally literate.

Artists, musicians, dancers, performers, and other creative workers have (and do) work in some wretched conditions with little reward ("the starving artist" - really who wants to be that?)  It's sad really -- so many of us do creative work because we want to share and yet, we are often taken advantage of in so many ways from being asked to give away our work (charity, large commission fees, internships, etc.) to unsafe conditions (dance spaces, studios, stages, film sets, etc.). I truly hope something positive comes out of her death in terms of set safety, but it would be wonderful to see it even have an even greater impact. We need to support the arts because they are a key to our survival.

Just my opinions.

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Why Einstein was like Picasso: 
The Contribution of the Artist to Scientific Visualization
Einstein On Creative Thinking: Music and the Intuitive Art of Scientific Imagination
Artists and Scientists: More Alike Than Different | Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network

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