Editor’s note: This is a letter to the editor submitted by Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, Executive Director of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton
Turn off the radio, put down your book, and whatever you do, don’t login to Netflix today. In fact, avoid the TV altogether, except the news, but be careful not to look at the graphics or the listen to the theme music. Websites are going to have to be a no-go, as well as those apps on your phone.
This is the start of your day without the arts.
The arts are in every part of our lives, every single day. When we first start in kindergarten, we don’t begin with learning to read, or to count, or pointing to a map. We are given paint and paper as we learn to express ourselves. In fact, whole periods of history are defined by the artistic achievements of humanity.
When the lockdowns began around the world, the arts were one of the first industries to be shut down…and yet artists were amongst the first to contribute. Online concerts, balcony performances, doodle drawing classes, maker videos, sonnets read by Star-Trek heroes and access to the worlds greatest stages. Much of this was provided at no cost because we knew the world needed something to hold on to, to keep us entertained, to keep us happy, to keep us sane.
The arts are a proven economic driver and are one of Ohio’s greatest selling points. The arts attract new business and a talented workforce, support tourism, creating and retaining jobs and generating revenue. Research from Bowling Green State University shows that Ohio’s creative industries support nearly 290,000 jobs, contribute almost $41 billion to the state’s economy, and generate approximately $4.6 billion in annual tax revenues (federal, state, and local combined). We are not a hobby, nor a pastime. We are a vital part of the economy and an essential service during a pandemic, and if you just scoffed at that, please revisit the first paragraph.
The arts industry now stands at a crossroads. Our concert halls sit silent and our stages are bare. It’s not just Broadway and national arenas that are affected, but thousands of regional theaters, arts centers and small companies that are standing on the precipice. When we ‘get back to normal’ people are going to want shows, concerts, events and festivals. They are going to want to do this together, and share these experiences with friends and family.
But, what if the arts are just not there when we get through this? Sure we’ll have a back catalog of music, plenty of classic TV to steam and some great masters to hang on the wall. But where are we going to go to see a live show? Will there be a road trip to see that once in a lifetime act? Who will paint the next great masterpiece?
The arts are more than a job, the arts are more than a passion. The arts are our community. The arts are our family. The arts are our education. The arts are our entertainment. The arts were there from day one of shutdown and will be there to support, nurture, distract and amaze us until we see the other side. The arts will survive everything that is thrown at it. But, some artists, performers, companies and venues may not. We need to see the other side, together. So wear your mask, stand your distance and advocate, write, sing and shout for the arts to all who listen, and to those who may not. For the time is now. Right now. Please.
Ian MacKenzie-Thurley is a writer, director and producer who has served as the Executive Director of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton, OH since 2015. Previously he has worked in artistic, production and academic positions throughout Australia, the United Kingdom and the USA.