Support the arts. We need them now more than ever.

Whenever I read about a new archeological discovery of pictographs found on ancient stones somewhere on the planet, I cheer, “Yes!” It’s another needed reminder that the arts are our oldest forms of communication and expression. 

In some of the renowned prehistoric caves, it is not just beautiful painted images of symbols, animals, hunting and dancing figures that have been preserved; musical instruments are among the list of treasures. 

Our ancestors recorded their lives by painting on cave walls, leaving a legacy to us, their descendants—a legacy of ceremonies and celebrations. They left evidence of music, dance, story and drama. I have not yet heard of a culture in human history devoid of these joyous things. Unique and universal, mysterious and miraculous, the arts, to me, are the connective tissue of the human spirit.

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Fast-forward through the centuries and look around at the power of the arts in our everyday lives. Examples abound! Talk to people of all ages about their school experiences and many list memories of the arts among the highlights of their education. Despite the pandemic shutting down festivals, theater, concerts and more, unprecedented bursts of creativity can be enjoyed as artists and arts lovers make music, dance, laughter and poetry in new, surprising, original ways. The arts are flourishing on the streets and on social media pathways. 

During this surreal time we are living through, so many folks are, perhaps for the first time, immersing themselves in the arts as a way of lighting the darkness. When her kids told her they were bored, one mom labeled a bulletin board “No Boredom Allowed!” and covered it with prompts: Paint a picture. Sing a song. Learn an instrument. Tell a story. Do your own dance. Write a poem. “It worked,” she said. 

Here is the irony. The arts are a vital, integral part of the lives of people, of communities and of quality education. Yet the arts are usually the first budget area to be cut—too often considered “frills,” nonessential or expendable. Cutting the arts is like amputating our spirit. 

The arts need us to be advocates. Without such support, too many times, they are slashed. Now, with so many decisions being made about the future of our cultural institutions and schools, we must be strong, persistent voices for preserving the arts in all of our endeavors. In addition to the many ways the arts enrich our lives, the arts are a destination. When the arts thrive, communities enjoy financial gains. 

We humans need the arts in our lives. The arts need us. Speak up! 

Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld is a longtime Columbus arts educator and author who works with children of all ages and encourages them to become creative, lifelong learners.