Friday, October 21, 2011

Support Arts Education; make something happen

If you missed it in yesterday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, here is my letter to the editor about supporting the arts and the businesses that are trying to promote the “creative industries” in Milwaukee. (This version is slightly longer than the 200-word limit imposed by the MJS. Original version here.)

Business should support education

In the Oct. 16 Crossroads was an article about Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE), which “is branded a design, technology and innovation cluster.” (Op ed: "Grab the MiKe; make something happen") MiKE is a laudable effort by local businesses to spur start-ups and growth in businesses that involve design and technology, often referred to as the “creative industries.” As a long-time artist and educator, I can only applaud any effort that “puts art at the center of economic development.”

The op ed was more informational than editorial. The information about MiKE is welcome. Let’s put the word out often and loud about the value of the arts to business and economic development. 

However, I saw a missed opportunity to make a broader point. The authors, Messrs. Jeffries and Teske (Exec. V.P. at Kohl’s Corp. and CEO of Brigg’s & Stratton, Corp. respectively), assert, “One of our region's greatest resources is its talented workforce….” They observe that this workforce “is continuously bolstered by the students graduating from our world-class colleges and universities.”

Well and good, but from where are these college students coming? From a pool of elementary and secondary students who already are experiencing an array of impediments to a quality education because of recent policy changes in Madison and consequent budget cuts to schools nearly everywhere in Wisconsin. Ironically, the first disciplines to get the ax are always the arts.

If business wants to grow its creative workforce, it will have to lend moral and monetary support to the foundations of public education and, in particular, arts education. 

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