Like millions of Americans, LAMP staff were deeply disappointed last week to learn of President Trump’s proposal to axe the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It’s why we are proud to be part of Ovation’s Stand for the Arts Coalition, joining the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the American Alliance of Museums and many others.
The arts are key to our work in teaching people to comprehend, create and critique media messages. We want to expand our students’ participation in the fields of media and technology, which includes everything from creating original media projects to deconstructing commercial media messages. Our programs emphasize process over product–critical thinking, not aesthetic mastery, is our goal–but the act of creating matters greatly.
In fact, the act of making is just part of why The LAMP’s programs are so special. Our students learn by doing, which we find helps them retain knowledge. We don’t just lecture about persuasive techniques; LAMP students practice those techniques when they produce their own advertisements, commercials or public service announcements. To criticize a message is to participate in it, to remix videos is to make your own video, and to make choices about the media you can consume is to be actively engaged in a world saturated by media.
“At the very least, participatory involvement with the many forms of art can enable us to see more in our experience, to hear more on normally unheard frequencies, to become conscious of what daily routines have obscured, what habit and convention have suppressed.” – Maxine Greene
“Intellect begins with the observation of nature, proceeds to memorize and classify the facts thus observed, and by logical deduction builds up that edifice of knowledge properly called science…But admittedly we also know by feeling, and we can combine the two faculties, and present knowledge in the guise of art.” – Herbert Read
Set aside for a moment the personal reasons why we at The LAMP love art. Forget that most of us are or have been artists in various media, or that we have invested time and money in honing our artistic skills. Never mind that we have each been profoundly touched by art, or that we frequently choose to spend our free time experiencing or making art.
Instead, imagine a world without art, in which art is not valued because we as a society have sent a message that it is disposable. The art that does exist is paid for by a relatively small circle of patrons. While much of it might be quite pleasing to everyone else, there is still less of it, and producing something that critiques the moneyed establishment is nearly impossible.
This world probably doesn’t exist the day after the NEA, NEH and CPB are abolished, but we can expect it many years from now for future generations. Even though the funds granted by the these entities are just .02 percent of the national budget, they are nonetheless vital for the organizations receiving those checks. A grant from the NEA or NEH is often a symbol to other funders and donors that a group has passed a vetting process, and is creating valuable work. In the cutthroat world of fundraising, those symbols mean something, especially to the artists who are usually being asked to do more with less.
But in this case, there is no reason why we should be asking the vanguards of our cultural identity to tighten their belts. It’s a bad idea for lots of reasons, but cutting the NEA also won’t save the government significant amounts of money. According to a study by Time, the cost per American taxpayer for the CPB is $1.37 per year. And the NEA and the NEH are just $0.46 each, for a year. That means each of us pay $2.29 annually.
Nobody gets into art, or education, expecting to become a millionaire; most of us are lucky if we can pay basic expenses. But all of us at The LAMP are happy to pay a $2.29 bill for strong communities, enriched lives and a more beautiful world.
– The LAMP Faculty and Staff