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Public Media’s Role in Creating Arts Participation, Audiences

“How would your life be different if you were never introduced to the arts?” asked Paula Kerger, president and CEO of the Public Broadcasting System, at a recent meeting of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington.

Basically, I can only speculate how my life would be different if I’d never been introduced to the arts.

I would presume that right now I’d be interning at a large corporation such as Kenseal Construction Products (the sealant and water proofing experts on the East Coast–for whom my dad works) aspiring to become their corporate spokesperson, not Americans for the Arts (but who’s to say that’s not a possible goal here?).

I could have played sports intensely in high school, probably basketball or lacrosse–as my dad had wanted to see–and this intense play could have continued to into and through college, possibly on a full scholarship. After all, it’s the jocks that make all the money, right? Not the band geeks.

Lucky for me, my parents are proud to call me their daughter and, even during times of skepticism, have supported my dreams my whole life and are excited to see where everything takes me. If my life lacked an arts introduction, I doubt I would be as open-minded and patient, and I also wouldn’t be sitting here with a degree in dance, trying to obtain professional work experience while squeezing in time to dance every spare moment I have.

Without art, though, I really don’t know how I would have found my calling, my passion, and my message.

I have been blessed with a family who has always supported my love of the arts, classical ballet and studio art in particular. At the age of three, my mom noticed my potential in dance as she watched me whirl around our kitchen, typically wearing some absurd outfit I had concocted on my own.

My visual art dream was initiated by my elementary school art teacher. She allowed my creative side to flourish, and I never thought about repercussions of my passion or alternative ways to stay connected to the arts beyond being an artist, whether visual or performing.

Taking a step back and looking at how much the arts has impacted my life really brought home Kerger’s stance on media and the arts, and how intricately connected these seemingly different things are.

I suppose I’ve just grown up with a love for the arts and taken it for granted, not realizing that there are some people who are NEVER exposed to such beauty.

Kerger stated that people in other countries remove their car batteries to power their televisions just to watch Baywatch! That seems crazy to me, yet it brings to light the immense impact that media has on an international stage. America’s popular entertainment industry can be found in households around the globe.

“Let’s get our arts–fine, visual, performing, etc.–among the U.S. exports,” Kerger said. She also noted how “coming together as a community” and massively advocating the arts as one arts-advocating machine could expose even more people to the various art forms and creations that reside in America. Public media is the perfect ambassador.

Kerger also mentioned an article written by Stanford professor, Elliot Eisner. I Googled it as soon as I got back to the office, and feel very strongly about one of Mr. Eisner’s points: “The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.”

Having grown up with the arts, I have learned patience, problem-solving and, most importantly, have come to the understanding that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Even if we don’t particularly enjoy something at first, give it a chance, it could surprise us in the long run.

The same goes for arts advocacy and reaching international audiences. Who says there is only ONE way to reach all audiences? We are all more connected than we give ourselves credit for.

I’ve opened my mind to the endless possibilities that public media can offer to reaching every corner of our world, what do you think?

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