The [Not So] Questionable Value of Arts Programs

Back in November the University of Texas' publication The Daily Texan presented an opinion piece by a graduate nursing student titled The questionable value of arts programs. In response to budget cuts to arts funding as a result of an over-burdened economy, the article questions whether Texas' tax payer dollars should be spent on art education at the University of Texas, and specifically "whether these programs are helping students achieve their career goals." Not surprisingly, the article caused a comment firestorm, where defendants of art education adamantly stated their opinions on the intrinsic value of the arts. As often occurs in these sorts of anonymous online debates, things sometimes got ugly, but out of the 411 comments there are some real gems--passionate, well thought out assertions of the inherent value of the arts in education. Two days after the initial article was published, The Daily Texan ran The Firing Line: Valuing the Arts, which presented a response from the original article's author as well as a curated selection of some of the article's most heated comments. Though I did not read all 411 comments from the original article, I was glad to see such attention brought to the topic of art education at The University of Texas, as I will be graduating with my master's in art education from UT this May. I am currently finished with all of my coursework and am working on editing the final draft of my thesis. While reading through interviews I transcribed for my thesis research, conducted by artist-educator, Peppino Mangravite with eight great artists of the 20th century, I came across this quote by English sculptor, Henry Moore, which I feel is a perfect response to The questionable value of arts programs:

"Well, I am sure that the community needs the artist. One is only to think of a world without art, that is a world without pictures, sculpture, music, poems, plays, etcetera, such a world would be no better than an animal world. The average person may think that painting and sculpture do not matter to him, but the very way he looks at life, at his garden, at everything around him is being colored and made by the artists who have lived before him. It is the artist who keeps the people’s senses alive. The poet keeps ideas and the language and vision fresh. The musician makes through sound the whole world of emotion and pleasure available and the sculptor and painter keep our eyes alert and our minds alive to the meaning of nature, to its rich associations, and to the wonderful variety and significance that is to be found in shape and form and color. Even though the average person may resist and dislike the changes in his outlook, all the time his life is being colored by art."

Need we say more?