According to their website, “The National Endowment for the Arts is an independent federal agency that funds, promotes, and strengthens the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation.”
As an artist living in Boston, how does this affect my community, I wondered? I decided to do some digging online. I found that in 2015 the city of Boston received a $100,000 award from NEA. According to an article in the Boston Globe, the money would go to artists with creative ideas for urban planning. More recently, in 2016, the Museum of Fine Arts got a $30,000 grant from The National Endowment for the Arts which made the Matisse exhibit possible.
In 2015, Boston Public Schools received $100,000 from NEA to expand arts education. According to WBUR article, “In total, Boston-area organizations are receiving $870,000 from this round of NEA grants to support local arts initiatives.” How amazing is that?
All of this may go away and be a thing of the past because of Donald Trump. According to The Hill, “The National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.” Even Trump’s buddy Steve Gannon’s old baby Breitbart News reported that Trump plans to eliminate NEA. Why does this matter anyways when the future is all about science, technology, engineering, and math? Put the money where it is most useful, right? Art does not really matter in the long run?
WRONG. Art is essential. It matters more than one may think and I speak from experience.
When I was younger, I was not the best student. I wasn’t the worst, but even when I tried my hardest, certain subjects just did not click with me. Science and math were the most difficult for me. Art was my favorite subject, it was the one subject I was good at. I don’t recall actually having an art teacher at the private catholic school I attended for eight years. My memory could be wrong, but I believe our home room teachers were the ones who did art projects with us. Most of what we made in school were projects to take home to our parents: Easter cards, Christmas cards, ornaments, angels with a photo of ourselves on it, seasonal-themed work, etc. It did not matter to me what we made, as long as I could be creative. Unfortunately, after fifth grade, there was not much art offered to me in school.
It was not until college that my art world really opened up. In 1996, I enrolled in the art program at The New England School of Art & Design at Suffolk University (NESAD). It was the best decision I have ever made. The curriculum was outstanding and the professors were amazingly talented. It did not matter if you planned to be a fine arts major, an interior design major, or go into graphic design. You were required to learn the basics. Drawing, 3-dimensional design, illustration, color theory, art history, and more. And trust me—it was not easy. I learned more at NESAD than I did anywhere else. Art teaches more than some may realize.
Patience. Creating can be difficult and it is not something that should be rushed. You have to take your time. You learn to practice over and over again until you get it right. I spent hours and hours in my bedroom doing 20 charcoal drawings of one subject with black dust covering my hands and face. You also need to know when to walk away and take a break from the piece you are working on. Developing the ability to know when to take a moment is crucial.
Constructive Criticism: After slaving away for hours on homework assignments, you would have to post your work up on a wall. The teacher and fellow students would then take turns providing feedback on your work. It could be praise, it could be a small suggestion, or it could be some serious criticism. The critiques were slightly nerve-racking at first, but you eventually got used to it. You tried not to take it personally and to learn from the feedback. It made you a better artist. And, I think that experience is useful well beyond art.
Point of View: As an artist, you are forced to look at everything in new and different ways. When you look at a still life, you are taught to look at the shapes, the colors, the light, the shadows. What direction is the light source? Where are the shadows? Are the colors cool or warm? You are literally taught about perspective. Not only as a drawing technique used to illustrate dimension on a flat surface, but you learn about the attitudes of others. It’s really cool to see how others interpret the exact same thing you are looking at. An entire class could be painting the same subject, but each student’s work is unique. It’s amazing. And, again….it’s a transferable skill.
Confidence: When you are in a creative field, you put a lot of yourself into your work. Art is not as simple as 2+2=4. As an artist, you have to be willing to really put yourself out there. Some people will love your work, while others may hate it. I work as a graphic designer and as a designer, one has to be able to back up their work and have an explanation of why you designed something a certain way. Why did you use that particular color or font? Why did you make the text that size? Why did you choose that image? You need to stand behind your work and be confident in your abilities.
Flexibility: As a designer, it is a requirement that you remain formable. Clients, marketing managers, and others will likely have edits for you. Copy changes, they want to use a different color, they’ve changed their mind about the photo they approved, etc. You have to be prepared for the possibility that you will go through several rounds of changes. Being able to adapt is not only a key trait as an artist, it’s a necessary trait to have in life.
These are just some of the things that art has taught me. The list goes on, but I don’t want to over do it. I feel that art is just as important as science, technology, engineering, and math. Art is such a crucial element of a well-rounded individual. It saddens and angers me that our new president appears not to care about the arts.
I’m not sure how much I can do as an individual, but I have signed this petition to help save the National Endowment for the Arts. Figure it’s the least that I can do since art is so important to me and has taught me endless life lessons.
Can I ask that you do the same?
Please sign. Thank you.