It’s that time of year again. Time for throwing out the cigarettes, getting a gym membership, and going for one last binge of all the chocolate in the house so that you can start the new year right.
This year, instead of making a New Year’s resolution that you probably won’t enjoy (because no matter how much you say you want to eat healthily, it’s no fun saying no to cookies), why not try something that enriches your mind and keeps the arts alive?
This year, why not make it your New Year’s resolution to support the arts?
Saying that the arts are the first to go in times of economic hardship is so cliché, you almost don’t need the statistics to paint how hard it is for theaters to survive in today’s cultural climate (but don’t worry; I have the numbers to prove it, too).
First Lady Michelle Obama believes that “our artists challenge our assumptions in ways that many cannot and do not. They expand our understandings, and push us to view our world in new and very unexpected ways…. It is a form of diplomacy in which we can all take part.” History proves her point. The first African American musical performed on Broadway in 1898, almost 60 years before the first integrated public schools. The first gay actor came out in 1933, 75 years before California legalized gay marriage.
But not all government officials believe in the power of the arts. It’s strange that the arts budgets are cut first, particularly by as they generate $9.59 billion annually in federal tax income alone, and pump in over $60 million into the economy each year. In comparison, a proposed spending reduction act in 2011 that threatened to eliminate funding to the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would save $167.5 million a year—a mere fraction of what the arts brings in.
And the trouble with the arts doesn’t stop and start with theaters. Over the past ten years, elementary schools offering performing and visual arts opportunities dropped from 20% to 3-4%. This is a critical time to begin learning, as students who study music consistently outperform (literally) their counterparts in math and science national tests, and arts students are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.
There are so many ways to support the arts, and each one plays a vital role in the health of the arts. I’m not saying you have to go out and donate your entire life savings to your local theater. But theater is about building communities–and we can’t do that if you don’t click out of the YouTube videos, change out of your pajamas, and meet us halfway.
See community theater. See professional theater. Go to an art exhibit. Help the local school paint their sets for their show. Give a gift basket for a theater’s fundraiser. Skip Starbucks for a week and donate the money you saved to a theater. Support the arts. You’ll be fulfilling your New Year’s resolution to cut back on coffee, and supporting institutions that build stronger, more open-minded communities…and that’s a New Year’s resolution that will last far beyond 2014.