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[BKARTS] Secretary for the Arts

In June, my husband and I attended the National Performing Arts Convention
in Denver, as officers of a community chorus Board of Directors, as well as
members of Chorus America, the national support organization for choruses.
This year, 24 performing arts organizations came together to see what was
needed to support the performing arts in America. Most Americans probably
don¹t even notice that we don¹t have a Secretary or Minister for the Arts,
the way many other countries do. We¹re all on our own, and sometimes it¹s a
real struggle, especially for the smaller organizations in today¹s economy.
It¹s the same for the individual artist, who often ends up working at
McDonald¹s or elsewhere to support his/her artistic dream. Many such
organizations and artists are just hanging on. And, there¹s no one
nationally to speak with one voice for the performing or other arts.  All of
our artists contribute incalculable riches to their communities.  This
conference brought organizations together to see if officials and members
could come up with a list of demands/requests that could be presented to
Congress or others to engender more moral and financial support for
performing arts and artists. We need a Cabinet-level Secretary/Minister of
the Arts to emphasize how ALL the arts?performing arts and fine arts?enrich
the individual, the community, and the world.  This country has some of the
finest artists in the world. Why aren¹t they given equal stature and support
with other aspects of our society?

There were approximately 3000 attendees at the conference, which was held in
Denver¹s Convention Center.  The organizations included symphony orchestras,
choruses, dance groups, opera companies, theatre companies, as well as
individual artists and adjunct services, such as insurance brokers,
publishing companies, and costumers.  Each attendee also was put randomly
into various discussion groups to come up with topics/questions that our
organizational leaders could share with government officials. It was
fascinating to sit down at a table with theatre administrators,
representatives from opera companies, composers, musicians, choreographers,
dancers, etc., and discuss the future of the performing arts.  I certainly
ended up with a healthy appreciation for the variety and ingenuity of
American performing arts groups and individuals, especially with the paucity
of any government support.   If members of ALL the arts came together with
one voice, we could have quite an impact.

Helene Whitson (retired librarian, sometime bookbinding and book arts

Helene Whitson
President, San Francisco Lyric Chorus
Co-Author, San Francisco Bay Area Chorus Directory
Founder, San Francisco Bay Area Choral Archive
1824 Arch Street
Berkeley, California  94709

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