A month or so ago a friend posted a meme on facebook with the face of Winston Churchill against a backdrop of the British flag. The meme reads: “During WWII Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts. He replied, ‘then what are we fighting for?’” You can decide for yourself whether or not the quote is accurate. But clearly the meme was in response to our new administration’s proposal to cut funding for the National Endowment of the Arts and they justify this by saying it’s “targeting waste.” Waste?? Really??? Having worked in public schools I can’t even begin to address the heartbreak and outrage that is experienced when funding for creative endeavors is taken away. I just want to take a moment here and draw some parallels between art and emotion because I think they are so often treated similarly and unfairly at times. If we encompass art to include all visual arts (painting, photography, print-making, sculpture, etc), performance arts (music, dance, theatre, etc) along with tv shows, movies, and creative and literary writing, then I think it’s pretty safe to say that the arts are in some way loved and revered by nearly everyone. Take any one of these away and someone is going to feel bereft. But that’s ok, right? Because at some point everyone has to take one for the team. But does the team really strengthen when you do this? No, because those who feel left out are disconnected and fall to the wayside.
So let’s take a minute to contemplate society’s approach towards emotion. How often are we given the message by others that happiness is the only acceptable expression of emotion? Maybe some sadness and grief is acceptable when someone dies or something but otherwise that’s about it. Anger is acceptable for men sometimes, but certainly never women. Magazine covers everywhere are plastered with images of strength and delight because those are the things we want to feel and if we don’t then clearly there’s something wrong with us and we should at least learn to fake it. While the Disney movie Inside Out did a great job with explaining the importance of tending to all emotions, we still have a really, really long way to go. To me Inside Out presents hope that future generations will not succumb to the same dangers of emotional suppression by which many of us were raised. It takes soooo long to undo the damage that is done (depression, anxiety, lack of self-identity, low self-esteem to name a few repercussions). The same way it takes long to rebuild a society when you’ve done all you can to decimate it.
My point is this: Emotion is the experience of being human. Art is the thing that connects and binds us and reflects the human experience; it’s what makes us stronger as a whole. Art is the voice of emotion. Taking away funding and support for the arts is like taking an essential vitamin out of your diet…sure you can exist, but maybe not for so long, and certainly you won’t thrive. We won’t thrive, not together.
When we refuse to nurture emotions, we create emotional imbalance and we suffer internally. When we refuse to nurture the arts, we create imbalance with miscommunication and lack of connection and society suffers as a whole.
Art inspires everything; fashion, sports, cooking, science. The arts extend to graphic design and marketing which means…gulp…our economy!! The lines are blurred because art is everywhere. Art is communication. Art is connection. We take it for granted because of this, the same way we take emotion for granted because of this. But growth comes from honoring care and nurturance for the things we care about and the things that connect us. Both art and emotion are everywhere and they’re not going away, it’s time to give them the care they deserve. Be sure to care for your emotions and honor this by supporting the arts; don’t make it yet another mess that future generations are left to clean up years after we’re gone.
Copyright 2017 © Rachel Braun, All rights reserved.
Rachel Braun, ATR-BC Art Therapist Philadelphia, PA
Specializing in art therapy groups for women who experience depression, anxiety and eating disorders.