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Theatre: Justifying the arts

By Robert W. Bethune
ART TIMES online October 2014

“The Value and Importance of the Arts and the Humanities in Education and Life.” Such is the title of yet another essay on why the arts and humanities, presumably theater among them, are important, worthy of support, should survive the next round of budget cuts, and so forth.

Here’s the curious thing. Why should the arts and humanities be regarded as important? Because they confer a number of benefits, such as expressiveness, collaboration, creativity, analytical thinking, responsible citizenship, imagination, synthesis of ideas, life-long learning, and so forth.

All this is true. All this is widely and generally cited on the noisy, static-filled, incoherent back-and-forth about education, funding, culture, and so forth; all this generally gets a nice quick yadda-yadda-yadda before the interaction lurches forward into the next sinkhole.

Perhaps I can convey my discomfort with this by a few simple observations: you don’t practice ballet in order to improve your muscle tone. You don’t paint in oils to improve your manual dexterity. You don’t write poetry in order to work on your penmanship. You don’t play a musical instrument so that you can do a better job of whistling for your dog. And so forth.

We need to focus on what is essential and fundamental in each and all arts that which makes that art what it indeniably is. It is that which enables an art to earn its keep, not any ancillary benefit, no matter how great.

We aren’t doing that.

Bethune website: