It’s Memorial Day. A somber day by many accounts. A day to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our current freedoms. In thinking about the cemeteries scattered across this country, bedecked with flags and floral arrangements, I can’t help but think that even on this most solemn of days, the arts play an integral role.
The lone trumpeter mournfully playing “Taps” to memorialize a military life now ended. The distinct design of each branch of the military, the American and individual state flags, even the design of headstones—all have an artistic component to them.
During World War II, when England’s then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding to the arts in favor of funding the war effort, his response was, “Then what are we fighting for?”
This quote has got me thinking, again. What are we fighting for? I don’t mean that in the literal sense Mr. Churchill meant it, but I do mean it in the sense of what is the point of fighting and advocating to save and fund the arts on a large scale?
There are some in our community who support the model of the free market. If enough individuals want something badly enough, they’ll support it. If they don’t, they must not have wanted it very badly.
There are others who believe that there are plenty of “rich people” who will step in and make the difference so they don’t have to personally donate or support the arts.
There are those who buy season tickets to various performing arts organizations, who purchase art made by local artists, who attend openings and individual performances.
There are those who make personal sacrifices in other areas of their lives to ensure that the arts are being funded to whatever extent they personally can.
There are those who are content to pay their tiny personal amount of the much larger taxpayer pool of dollars that support the arts and culture of this community.
Where do you fall? What more could you be doing to advocate for and support the arts? What is your role in this fight? Because make no mistake, it’s a battle.
It would be easy to say that this is a partisan issue, but that’s not true or fair. There are liberals and Democrats who might not actively work against the arts, but who certainly don’t fight for them like they need to be fought for. There are conservatives and Republicans who understand the value of the arts, on both personal and community-wide levels, and who fight for their place at various tables and to include them in budgets.
So what can you do to help keep the arts not just alive but thriving? On this Memorial Day, I challenge you to step up your support of the arts. I challenge you to get in the trenches of arts advocacy and make sure that we aren’t memorializing the arts for what they used to be.
This article is part of a content partnership with the Fargo Forum and originally appeared in print on Monday, May 29, 2017.