Posted by: JanF | October 18, 2012

Why I Vote For Democrats: Arts and Humanities

On September 29, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act into law. The act called for the creation of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as separate, independent agencies.


Creating the NEH and the NEA in 1965

Since then Democratic administrations and Democratic congresses have supported and promoted the arts and humanities by funding those agencies.

October is National Arts and Humanities Month. From President Barack Obama, October 1, 2012:

“Throughout our history, the arts and humanities have given us comfort and confidence, drawn us together, and called on us to strive for a more perfect Union. This month, we celebrate our Nation’s rich artistic heritage.

Artistic expression and memorable ideas can resonate with us, challenge us, and teach us important lessons about ourselves and each other. At their best, great works of literature, theater, dance, fine art, and music reflect something common in all of us. They open dialogues between cultures and raise poignant questions about our world. They are also vital components of our children’s education and our national growth — not only teaching our youth to observe closely, interpret creatively, and think critically, but also bringing new cultural experiences to our communities and helping drive economic progress. That is why my Administration is committed to strengthening arts and humanities programs in schools and communities across our Nation.

When children read their first book, pick up their first instrument, or perform in their first play, they demonstrate the power of the arts to ignite wonder and imagination. This month, let us pledge to invest in America’s next generation by ensuring our children have the opportunity to participate in and enjoy the arts and humanities. If we give them the tools to create and innovate, they will do their part to disrupt our views, challenge our perceptions, and stir us to be our best selves.”

First Lady Michelle Obama, Honorary Chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, speaks on the importance of arts programs for young people.


The First Lady Honors Arts and Humanities Programs for Youth (Transcript)

The Obama Administration promotes the arts through their initiative Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools. From Melody Barnes, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council:

The arts are not just for those who go on to become professional artists. Research shows that girls and boys, young men and women who have art classes are more likely to be engaged in their classes, attend school, achieve better test scores, and graduate.

That means that arts education can’t be an afterthought — an investment that our schools can make only after they’ve solved all the other challenges they face. Instead, we must see it as a tool for keeping students more engaged, for closing achievement gaps and lowering dropout rates.

My office, along with the Department of Education, is working with the President’s Committee to take next steps on the report’s recommendations and work with other government, private and philanthropic partners as well to realize a complete and competitive education – from cradle to career – for all children.

The Obama White House is committed to closing the achievement gap with arts programming by working with educators like Ramon Gonzalez, the founding principal of MS 223-The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, a middle school in the South Bronx:

“The Center for Arts Education, who developed the concept of Arts Powered Schools, believes as we do that all schools can be arts powered schools if they use the tools and resources of the community to help transform any school into a center of arts learning.

In New York City’s Community School District 7, we had a literacy rate of 23% in grades 3-8 in 2010. That means only about a quarter of students are reading proficiently and on or above grade-level. We believe that we need to change the culture of reading of our community by using the culture of the community as an asset to address summer learning loss. Partnering with the Multicultural Music Group, Yale Black Alumni Association, local teaching artists, teachers and principals, we offer students two hours of music instruction and two hours of visual arts instruction to inspire students to attend academic instruction that focuses on building reading stamina and a love for reading. This initiative is a three week summer program we call the “Summer Bridge Arts Institute.” This program engages students in reading while developing students’ acumen through culturally relevant art. By developing great artists we know we can make great readers!”

Support means funding as well.

From the Obama Administration’s 2013 Budget:

President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget, released Monday, calls for a 5% increase in spending for three cultural grantmaking agencies and three Washington, D.C., arts institutions.

Obama aims to boost outlays from $1.501 billion to $1.576 billion, encompassing the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities (NEA and NEH), the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Smithsonian Institution, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the National Gallery of Art.

The arts and humanities endowments each would get a 5.5% boost, to $154.255 million — nearly restoring cuts announced in December.

$154.2 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an $8.2 million increase:

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.

Because democracy demands wisdom, NEH serves and strengthens our republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. The Endowment accomplishes this mission by awarding grants for top-rated proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers.

NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars. The grants:

● strengthen teaching and learning in schools and colleges
● facilitate research and original scholarship
● provide opportunities for lifelong learning
● preserve and provide access to cultural and educational resources
● strengthen the institutional base of the humanities

$154 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), an increase of $6.75 million:

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.

One more time:

“Artistic expression and memorable ideas can resonate with us, challenge us, and teach us important lessons about ourselves and each other … great works of literature, theater, dance, fine art, and music reflect something common in all of us. They open dialogues between cultures and raise poignant questions about our world. They are also vital components of our children’s education and our national growth … teaching our youth to observe closely, interpret creatively, and think critically …”
~ President Barack Obama, Oct. 1, 2012

The Democratic Party’s strong belief that our children’s educations should include that which feeds their hearts and souls and gives them the tools to learn how to think … another reason I Vote For Democrats and why you should too.

~


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