If you’ve stopped by a local gallery, enjoyed a regional play, read a book, or visited a museum, you probably helped pay for it, even if it was ostensibly “free.” Most of the local, regional, and national arts programs are supported in some ways by taxpayer dollars.
Most of us are okay with that. But not everybody.
Among the first acts of the new President was a promise to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. According to fact checkers, the total of both cuts added together would save less than one dollar per taxpayer.
But what is the benefit?
According to a friend and fellow writer, Chris Feliciano Arnold, a $25,000 grant from NEA allowed him to quit working two of his three part-time jobs and to go from writing in the early morning hours to working at a university and finishing a book that will be published soon – all while continuing to publish quality in-depth journalistic pieces.
“And I’m still just a small fish,” he wrote in an open letter to Donald Trump that was published by the San Francisco Chronicle. He continued:
“NEA literature fellowships have supported 2,940 writers over the years. Tremendous, A++ people. Since 1990, 60 percent of the winners of the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prizes in poetry and fiction have won an NEA fellowship, usually before they got huge. I’m talking the best of the best. Millions of books sold, supporting thousands of good U.S. jobs.”
But that’s just one guy’s story. Look at their websites.
The National Endowment for the Arts (arts.gov) helps artist communities, arts education, museums, and state and regional groups, as well as everything from dance and design to folk, literature, music, and theatre.
The National Endowment for the Humanities (neh.gov) supports websites, apps, and digital projects, a Humanities Magazine, lectures, films, and much more.
Both also provide funding for veterans. The NEH awards funds “to promote the understanding of the military experience and to support returning veterans.” Chris Arnold notes that the NEA funds “service members who participated in the Healing Arts program.” He said they reported multiple benefits, including “the ability to process trauma, and increased capacity to address issues related to identity, frustrations, transitions, grief, cognitive skills, and memory.”
Take a look at the sites and appreciate what your approximately 92-cents-a-year paid for. And if you think it’s worth it, shoot off an email or make a call to your representative or senator and tell them it’s okay to spend a dollar on the arts.
Reap the rewards
Locally, you don’t have to travel far or spend much money to support the arts. And who knows? You might enjoy it and stretch your imagination.
For traditional art from classic paintings of still lifes and landscapes, visit the Fall River Public Library where the walls are canvases for amazing art that embraces the shelves of good literature and thought-provoking writing. It’s free, thanks to the good citizens of the city.
Head up the hill to Bristol Community College and the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery beckons. Again, thanks to your taxes and other grants.
The gallery opened its 2017 season with an installation by Jackie Brown called Accretion Systems. According to gallery director Kathleen Hancock, “Brown has transformed the gallery into a kind of bio lab where she imagines and choreographs a tangible and immersive environment. It is at once welcoming and a little unsettling. Are we part of her experiment or merely an explorer in this strange world? Are we witnessing the results of unnatural mutations or is this part of a strange and compelling landscape?”
For the casual visitor, the welcoming gallery space has been taken over by colorful sculptures that kind of look like a cross between what you could see under a microscope – or in the back of your refrigerator drawers.
But maybe that’s not too far off. The artist explains it this way:
“While each work is imaginative, the ideas that are central to the work reference real phenomena in a purposeful way, and I am increasingly interested in experiments that involve the human manipulation of living systems,” Brown noted, adding, “Ultimately, the work is hopeful and aims to suggest limitless potential for growth, movement, and expansion.”
This exhibition will run through February 23. Upcoming exhibits include Figuratively Speaking, a show featuring the works of Deborah Baldizar, Pamela Hoss, Judy Volkmann, and V.F. Wolf, which runs from March 9 through April 7.
According to Hancock, “the artists reference the figure in their works to express notions of the human condition. Themes include: private vs. public expression of identity, autobiography, aging, gender, loss, remembrance, and internal versus external states of being.”
The academic year will end with BCC’s Annual Juried Student Art and Design Exhibition. From April 27 to May 12, the public can come to see what their investment in the college’s art program has produced.
In the past, this show has been a highlight of the year. Student work is not only of high quality, but at the opening reception on April 27 from 6 to 8 p.m., you can meet the artists. Seeing the proud artists, and often their families and friends, makes clear the importance of your investment in their education.
All of the BCC gallery events are free and open to the public. The gallery is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. Visit bristolcc.edu/gallery for more information.
Local Art, Global Impact
The UMass Dartmouth University Art Gallery is located at 715 Purchase Street in New Bedford in what was formerly the Star Store. The gallery is on the first floor of a building filled with student artists’ working spaces and some BCC campus services (most of the college programs are now in what was Cherry and Webb at 800 Purchase Street).
At the UMD gallery, Singular Repetitions displays the art of Lindsey Beal, Kim Gatesman, Amanda Means, Denny Moers, and Michael Rich. According to the website, this exhibition features abstracted, one-of-a-kind prints created in various techniques from daguerreotypes to electrostatic monoprints. It’s open through March 16.
From April 1 to May 13, the University’s Master of Fine Arts students will share their work. Selections from this exhibition will also be shown at the Bromfield Gallery in Boston from May 31 through July 2.
“The UMass Dartmouth 2017 MFA Thesis Exhibition is a much-anticipated and celebrated annual event showcasing the artwork of graduating students from the College of Visual and Performing Arts in large-scale exhibition at the Star Store Campus in historic Downtown New Bedford,” the exhibit’s Facebook page promises.
The gallery is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and until 9 p.m. during AHA! Nights (every second Thursday each month) and on May 13. Free admission.
Also in downtown New Bedford is the New Bedford Art Museum/ARTWORKS! Located at 608 Pleasant Street, exhibits are open from noon to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and from noon to 9 p.m. on Thursday. An admission is charged, but the museum is free on AHA! Nights, the last Sunday of every month, and for active-duty military and their families.
Upcoming exhibitions include Behind Open Doors by Brooke Goldstein which runs through June 11. The works draw on techniques including quilting, fabric painting, silkscreen, and service design.
From April 8 through May 7, the museum will host the culminating exhibit of the 2017 graduate of UMass Dartmouth’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA). According to the website, “Students from Fine Arts, Artisanry, and Visual Design team up with Master of Art Education graduates to bring one of the most eclectic and exciting exhibitions of emerging artists and art educators to the South Coast.”
For more information about these and other exhibits and programs, visit newbedfordart.org.
And there’s much more. Bridgewater State University has regular art, theatre, and music presentations. The Fall River Art Association and a variety of galleries in nearby Warren, Bristol, and Newport are worth visits, as are the Rhode Island School of Design museum and exhibits.
From small, independent exhibits and performance to internationally-recognized shows in the Boston area and the South Coast region, art is all around. You can even get free museum passes at your local libraries. Art is accessible and affordable, in part because of the taxpayers.
Get your money’s worth – and show that the creative arts are worth your money. You can help prove that art can trump hate and fear.