Wednesday, April 14, 2010

More from Arts Advocacy Day - Arts and National Security

Since the testimony of retired Brigadier General Nolen Bivens was - as reported earlier - a new addition to the usual array of perspectives presented in support of the arts, here is a link to his full written testimony. His testimony also got extensive coverage in the LA Times. I think it is well worth reading.

He presented three policy areas in which he notes that his "experience in the military has shown that support for arts and culture can improve our national security needs, provide a pathway to stronger cultural diplomacy and quality of life for our wounded warriors and veterans transitioning into a civilian life." These are clustered under three headings: 1) Asymmetrical Warfare Requires Creative Solutions and Innovative Thinking. 2) Cultural Diplomacy is a Key Security Strategy, and 3) Arts Help Support Wounded Warriors and Veterans Transition to Civilian Life.

As Subcommittee chair Jim Moran noted, a small share of our massive military budget would go a long way if directed towards these arts programs. Of course, one statistic that is often bandied about is that the combined budgets of all the military marching bands and other arts programs exceeds that of the National Endowment for the Arts.(Don't have exact numbers on this - anyone with the facts, feel free to comment!)

It would be great not to have to continually make these arguments that the value of the arts is because it helps address one social or political problem or another - I can hear the groaning and the eye-rolling out there: "Great, now we have to add national security to economic impact, community revitalization, education and workforce development, crime reduction, etc. Can't we just get funded for making art?" The reality is that we need all the arrows in our quiver. Many WILL fund you just to make your art. Some will WANT to fund you just to make your art but need other arguments to help make the case to their boards or give them political "cover." Still others could care less about the art, but might STILL be supporters and advocates if they believe we affect something else they believe is important. We need to be building the biggest tent of supporters possible, and I for one welcome our military leaders into it...

1 comment:

  1. I hope those who make the decisions are aware of projects such as Combat Paper (about which I wrote on my own blog on 20 September 2009). The work this group of Iraq/Afghanistan war veterans is doing -- they make pulp of their uniforms and then make paper from the pulp and art with the paper -- is certain evidence of the therapeutic quality of art. Some of the most moving images I've seen have come from these veterans trying to make it now that they're home. The national and international art therapy associations have been doing a great deal to promote the fact that art does indeed heal.

    I agree with you about the military's involvement in support of the arts.

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