Arts Advocacy Day in Franklin

30226881_10214760750868969_89927535617376256_nThank you Stacey for bringing us all together today for this opportunity to advocate for the arts. Your passion for the arts is contagious.

And thank you to everyone for coming here to Franklin – the birthplace of Horace Mann, the father of public education, and the home of America’s first public library.

Let me begin with a few plugs for the community. Before you leave today, take a ride over to the Franklin library and see the new display of the Ben Franklin books which arrived two days ago. And then continue down Main Street, take a right on Emmons Street, and at the end, take a peak at the art depicting Horace Mann as a young Mann setting out on a course to change American education.

And finally, take a ride on Panther way towards the Police Station, and take a stroll through out Sculpture Park and enjoy some of the art on display in natural settings. You’ll even see artwork depicting the 116 books from Benjamin Franklin hanging from the trees.

All three should sites should offer you plenty of energy and enthusiasm as you continue on your mission to advance the arts.

And finally, watch Chronicle on Channel 5 this Tuesday night. You’ll see a piece on our community’s marathon reading of the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

The role of art in our society is not to reenact history but to offer an interpretation of human experience as seen through the eyes of the artist. As Edgar Degas put it:

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.

And Aristotle once said that: “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inner significance.”

And we advocate for the arts at sessions like this because we know the power of the arts to transform, to help us and others to see, and to make the world a better place.

A few years ago I stumbled upon a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes. He said: “Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them.”

Let me say that again: “Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them.”

We advocate for the arts to bring the music out in all of us.

We advocate for that song that enhances a dramatic scene or brings a smile to others;

For that painting whose lines, shapes and colors add warmth to a room;

And for that play that stops us in our tracks and makes us think again.

I was born in 1961 at the time when the construction of the Berlin Wall was happening. For the first time in the history of mankind a political system had to construct a barrier to keep people in. It stood as an iconic symbol of oppression. And it squashed the freedom of those captured within its confines.

One grafitti artist wrote on the following on that wall:

“This wall is only a manifestation of what our societies have built… Will we ever tear down all our walls?”

And Nikita Khrushchev, the Russian leader and architect of that wall remarked that: “It is the highest duty of the Soviet writer, artist and composer, of every creative worker, to fight for the triumph of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism.”

That Berlin Wall and those words are the horrible manifestations of what we have built.

Luckily, at the same time in 1961, a young energetic President John F. Kennedy was celebrating a New Frontier for American Art. He brought art, culture and music to the White House regularly, and celebrated creativity, because he knew the power contained within these works.

JFK spoke about the arts just one month before he was assassinated. This was on October 26, 1963 and he was giving remarks at Amherst College in remembrance of the great poet Robert Frost. He said:

When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations.

When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence.

When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.

For art establishes the basic human truth which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.

From the earliest times, humans have communicated their most profound thoughts and deepest feelings through music, dance, drama, and art. From early cave paintings we gain insights into daily life from the Paleolithic age.

And the arts remain essential to this day.

Arts help us better understand and interpret the world around us;

The arts improve our ability to think critically and act creatively; and

The arts offer the opportunity to communicate.

Arts are not a luxury but a necessity. We hear often discussions about the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). But such a focus neglects the importance of the arts. So the next time you hear someone talk about stem, urge them to expand the discussion to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math).

Remind them that the arts are not simply about some vague notion of “creativity.” The arts provide a way of thinking and a way to be engaged. The arts are about vision — again, having that ability to see.

Steve Jobs of Apple Computer fame often spoke about the intersection of technology and the arts. And toward the end of Walter Isaacson’s biography of him, Jobs is quoted as observing:

The reason Apple resonates with people is that there’s a deep current of humanity in our innovation. I think great artists and great engineers are similar, in that they both have a desire to express themselves. In fact, some of the best people working on the original Mac were poets and musicians on the side. In the seventies computers became a way for people to express their creativity. Great artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were also great at science. Michelangelo knew a lot about how to quarry stone, not just how to be a sculptor.

Indeed, the intersection of arts and technology is of great significance to our progress as local communities, as a state, and as a nation.

Investing in the arts also delivers significant economic returns to the Commonwealth. Nonprofit cultural organizations help drive local economies, generating over $2.2 billion dollars in annual economic activity. These organizations support 73,000 full time jobs and generate more than $159 million in local and state tax revenue, according to the 2016 Arts and Economic Prosperity Report.

In our schools, arts education improves student achievement, well-being, and school climate. Afterschool programs in the arts, humanities, and sciences— creative youth development—help steer at-risk youth away from trouble and into stable, successful adulthood.

Finally, perhaps most importantly, culture plays a central role in helping our citizens discover timeless truths about themselves and the world we share.

And in that spirit, it is fitting that we are here today to celebrate the arts and to develop a roadmap for advocacy. And you all are the architects that continue to blaze a trail.

And that’s why we advocate.

I want to leave you with a quote from Leonard Bernstein that he delivered November 25, 1963 at a concert he was conducting at the Madison Square Garden two nights after our dear President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed.

I know I shared this at last year’s advocacy day, but I think it bears repeating, because it conveys the power of the arts to transform and is something that we should all keep in mind as we go about our work here today:

Bernstein said: “We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same.

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. And with each note we will honor the spirit of John Kennedy, commemorate his courage, and reaffirm his faith in the Triumph of the Mind.”

55 years later, we continue in that vein. In these rather unsettling times, we need art more than ever to deliver us from hatred, divisiveness, and despair. We need to act more like musicians in an orchestra, where we work together and our instruments complement the others and deliver the most beautiful sounds.

The image up on the screen is what I saw at the bottom of the Grand Staircase in the IMG_8307State House yesterday, an orchestra expressing the most beautiful sounds in the seat of government, melding the two worlds as we went about our work.

Thank you again for being here. Congratulations on your past successes. And I look forward to engaging with you to talk about how we will build on that success.

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