Last Sunday my wife and I were watching "Sunday Morning" a informational program on CBS that touches on news, human interest stores, some sports and the arts. I was struck by a story they reported about Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. It seems because of a huge deficit and the current economic issues that are shaking everyone Brandeis University was thinking about closing its Rose Art Museum and sell off their collection that includes work by such contemporary masters as Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. It seems that when any school or university be it a local municipal school board or a major university, have a budget crisis, the arts are always the first to go.
“Clearly, what’s happening with Brandeis now is that they decided the easiest way is to look around the campus and find things that can be capitalized,” said David Robertson, a Northwestern University professor who is president of the Association of College and Univertsity Museums and Galleries. “It’s always art that goes first.”
When my daughter started college she attended the University of Florida, a school famous for "Gator Aid". So when I saw the huge football stadium, next to the huge basketball stadium, which was across the road from the baseball stadium, I wasn't that surprised. They are known for their sports and yes sports revenues for a college can be quite hefty as are the salaries in which they pay their coaches. There are over a dozen college football coaches making over $1 Million dollars a year. College Football Compensation Even colleges with these huge sports programs are looking to the arts to cut first before they even think about denting the huge budgets they have allotted their sports programs. Now Brandeis does not have a huge football program, but why would it look to sell of it's wonderful collection of art to balance their budget. The reason I fear is that art isn't important, it isn't needed, it's a luxury. The dean of the collage doesn't see the invaluable resource that they have. The arts are always the first thing that is cut. They are cut from the school curriculum so that some art teachers don't even have a classroom, just a cart they roll around. They are cut from states and federal budgets seriously decreasing the funding that is so needed, and art spending is cut or non-existent in personal budgets. To most people purchasing original art is not even something they think about let alone budget for.
Without art, what do we have. When things get tough, a performance, concert or gallery is a great place to reconnect, a place to have your spirits lifted. Try to imagine a world without art. It's not a pretty place. I know times are tough, I have a hard time producing art let alone selling any, but we can't looking to the arts as the first place to cut to balance a budget. We need to promote, encourage and protect the arts because without them, we really have nothing.