Everyone Wants to Live in a Special Place

Posted by Ms. Margy Waller, Dec 09, 2010 1 comment

Many of us have spent years searching for the strongest possible message and the best case on which to build support for the arts. Yet the messages we’ve used, and successfully integrated in the dialogue across the country, have not yielded the broad sense of shared responsibility that we seek.

Seriously, if we were succeeding, there’s no way we’d see news reports with quotes like this that lead to calls for an end to funding:

"Why should the working class pay for the leisure of the elite when in fact one of the things the working class likes to do for leisure is to go to professional wrestling? And if I suggested we should have federal funds for professional wrestling to lower the cost of the ticket, people would think I'm insane. I don't go to museums any more than any Americans do."

Reporters and bloggers love to shine a spotlight on fights like the one that erupted in recent days over a privately-funded exhibit at the publicly-funded Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. And opponents of broad support for the arts know they can undermine that support by tagging art as elitist for the few. We’ve seen it happen time and again.

Debates like this make even our friends and supporters leery of publicly backing the arts -- whether with money or advocacy.

We have to change the landscape so the arts are not so vulnerable in the public forum. Business leaders, indeed all leaders, need to see the arts as necessary -- not just nice.

While most people feel positively toward the arts, we need a new focus in order to motivate action by business and civic leaders.

For example, here’s a clip of Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory’s last State of the City speech stating his case for how the arts make our region special -- a place people want to live, work, play, and stay.


When many more people see the arts this way, it won’t be so easy to use the elitist framing. Everyone wants to live in a special place - a neighborhood where the arts bring people together and make the streets exciting. So we need more leaders of all kinds to make the case for creating community through art as Mayor Mallory does.

1 responses for Everyone Wants to Live in a Special Place


Lynn Reed says
December 09, 2010 at 4:41 pm

PLease put this on agenda at next Augusta County Commissioners meeting..I will go with you!!! Hold signs and make a statement:)

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