Whatever happened to the arts?

November 13, 1998|By JENNIFER LAM

Do you remember going to your first play or first ballet?

Your first symphony concert or the first time you visited an art gallery?

If you do, most likely you have benefited from the diverse world of the arts. And today, the arts are more significant than ever, especially in the middle to high school years.

While providing a positive outlet for emotions, the arts also offer invaluable comfort for those who seem to be in step with a different crowd.

--cont. from lifestyle--

For a few precious moments, we are allowed to do whatever we please, be it dance, sing, paint, draw, write, act or play the instrument of our choice to our heart's content.


The arts have become essential to us. So, then, what's the problem? The problem dwells in the diminishing monetary supports for these sorts of programs.

Every year, thousands of private arts companies go bankrupt or are reduced. It's even happened in our own community.

Does anyone remember Tres School for the Arts?

Or the argument over music education in our schools?

It's not that people aren't coming to the presentations.

It's just that to get the desired result, the artists and creators must not leave anything to chance if they want the product to be their own. And that takes money. Few people are willing to put money into a project until they see the result.

By then it's too late.

But with the help of growing organizations like the federally operated National Endowment for the Arts, some companies are finding their way back into our culture.

Since National Endowment for the Arts was created in 1965, nonprofit theaters have grown from 56 to more than 425, large orchestras from about 100 to more than 230, opera companies have swelled from 27 to more than 120 and dance companies have ballooned from 37 to about 400, according to NEA.

To think that the NEA has accomplished this in its relatively short period of existence is astounding.

It has awarded more than 110,000 grants to arts organizations and artists. This has resulted in literally millions of innovative pieces reaching every single inch of America and the world. A million or so probably has touched you.

Hagerstown doesn't need an NEA, but its citizens need to realize that the arts does not just fit under the "extracurricular" category.

It fits under the "must-have" category.

I know students who would've dropped out of school by now if it was not for the drama play, the band practice, the orchestra or the art class.

Not everyone has the money to dish out for a Broadway show, but that doesn't mean they should be left out of getting a chance to create, explore and experience.

Public programs are the best approach to this, and I'm disappointed that the programs, both curricular and extracurricular, in our community have received so few supporters.

Even as you read this today, thousands of projects are being forfeited because of the budget problem.

The great poetry book that would have revolutionized literature will not be published.

The annual ballet that would inspire a child to become the most distinguished dancer in the world will not be presented.

And maybe that painting you will one day create will not be exhibited because the gallery doesn't have enough money to remain open.

The world of the arts is just as important as humanitarian efforts and medical endeavors.

It offers to us a chance to explore that unique vision that dances before us. Take a moment to weigh what is really important.

The Mozarts, Fred Astaires, Henri Matisses, Alfred Tennysons, Billie Holidays and KatharineHepburns of tomorrow are counting on you.

Jennifer Lam is a senior at North Hagerstown High School.

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