On Thursday, beloved English Actress Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton penned a powerful op-ed for CNN calling Donald Trump’s proposed slashing of funding for the arts “mind boggling considering how much the arts benefit our lives and our world.” Well, we are right there with you, Julie.
It is mind-boggling.
Trump’s budget sends a very clear message that the arts are neither a priority in his administration nor are they a priority in American society. It feels strange to have to defend something that is so self-evidently fundamental to American culture and civic life as the arts, but Andrews and her daughter have risen to the occasion and offered some extremely compelling arguments: The arts “are among the most profoundly important and valuable ways to improve learning and promote success, from early childhood through adulthood…They foster collaboration and creativity, essential skills for navigating in the workplace and surviving in a challenging world. They cultivate empathy and tolerance, by bridging cultural and socioeconomic divides. They’re also good for business: They spur urban renewal, promote tourism and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in economic activity annually.”
Indeed, the arts have had consistently positive tangible effects on the people who attend, participate in, and interact with them. Whether it’s attending a play, concert, or recital, whether it’s studying ballet or opera or painting, whether it’s going to a museum or to the movies, whether it’s reading poetry and literature at home, or whether it’s streaming footage of productions from all over the world on Cennarium—the arts somehow renew us, fill a void.
Shakespeare put it best. In Hamlet’s famous speech to the players, he instructs them to “hold the mirror up to nature.” Yes, this is what the arts provide, they reveal to us our own humanity. In the arts we see ourselves, we see our joy, our pain, our grief, our sadness. We see ourselves in the characters we watch on stage and screen, in the paintings we stare at, in the books we read, in the music we hear, we feel connected to something that expresses and reveals to us our own experience.
To end, I want to look again at Julie Andrews and her daughter’s paraphrase of the Pulitzer-Prize winning writer Katherine Anne Porter, who said that when all about us is lying in the ashes, it is the arts that remind us who we are, where we came from and what matters most.