Panama City News-Herald from Panama City, Florida on June 23, 1974 · Page 65
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Panama City News-Herald from Panama City, Florida · Page 65

Panama City, Florida
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 23, 1974
Page 65
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Americans are cultural eunuchs; that spectator sports are their only significant leisure-time indulgence. This survey probes deeply into the activities of the average American household and demonstrates that a desire for the arts and what we may regard as arts activities is not alone in the minds and lifestyles of the most educated and the most affluent. The need to participate arises from something more basic than learning or wealth. Henry lames, the famous novelist, once said that Americans regarded the arts as only "for women, immigrants and other impractical people." Certainly an impressive case may be made for an almost instinctive, compelling affinity for beauty and the arts by women, who are, after all, believed to be the more sensitive sex. As for immigrants, our country was enriched with the art and folk art of the world when we invited new citizens to these shores by the millions. The respective cultures and energies they brought with them changed the metabolism of America. The "foreign" names of painters, singers, composers, dancers, have now - become American names, scattered like windblown seed across the. land, and their bearers propagate cultural vitality and influence wherever they settle. "Impractical"? Our pioneer forefathers, once security and sustenance were insured, satisfied other practical needs with homespun cloth, iron and pewter, leather and wood, in forms that survive as indigenous and highly respected art. Today, the design of every article we use is no less influenced by someone's artistic expression, good or bad. It is impossible to divorce art from everyday life. And that is why the results of the Harris survey can be projected as a valid American condition. The Harris survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of adult Americans would be willing to pay an additional $5 per year in taxes to support the arts; 47 percent would be willing to pay $25 more annually "if the money were used to maintain and operate cultural facilities such as theater, music and art exhibitions"; and more than one out of three people-36 percent-would pay up to $50 for such purposes. Here are a few other survey results worthy of note: ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gerald A. Bart el I is chairman of the Wisconsin Arts Board, the official state agency for the development of the arts. He is a member of the Business Committee for the Arts, which is made up of executives of leading U.S. corporations. • 89 percent of the people consider a theater, concert hall and an art museum important to the quality of life in a community. • 76 percent believe such arts facilities have a favorable effect on a community's business and economy. • 71 percent regard arts facilities in a community as inducements to attract residents who would improve the community. • 77 percent think it important for young people to have the experience of seeing live actors perform on a stage. • 68 percent agreed that TV should broadcast more concerts, opera and serious drama than it does now. • 79 percent asked that schools make more of an effort to hold concerts for students because they should be exposed to classical music. We must get used to the idea that more and more Americans will be joining the arts community. We must reject that old shibboleth that the arts appeal only to an intellectual or economic "89 percent of the people consider a theater, concert hall and an art museum important to the quality of life in a community." elite. Twenty-two percent of all adult Americans now make at least four visits a year to two or more of the following: a museum or gallery, a concert of music or dance, a performance of drama, opera or ballet. That is more than 30 million people! And I believe this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, for an additional 25 percent are actively participating nonprofessionally in the arts. They play a musical instrument, paint, draw, sculpt or pot; dance in ballet, sing in a choral group; act or work backstage in theater; do creative writing. • Here is reason enough for political planners to embrace the arts as a proper social service with appropriate government funding. • Here is reason enough for school boards and administrators to reverse regressive attitudes concerning arts instruction and encouragement in the schools. • Here is reason enough to consider the arts as a populist (not elitist) activity that constitutes an open challenge to our public and private institutions for responsive action. Underlying that response should be an awareness that the arts offer a constant restatement of the importance of the individual in our society and a significant role in the fuller development of the unknown potential wmm within each human being. 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