Dear Mr. President and Madam Vice President,
I grew up in a home with a father who was a civics teacher at a local middle school. The sounds of my childhood included the music of Disney’s Schoolhouse Rock teaching me and my brother the most basic elements of our US History and Government from an early age. Those songs not only taught me as a child but remained with me through my schooling all the way to help me succeed in my US Government class at Brigham Young University. That is the power that music has. My first exposure to theatre performance was in the second grade when I performed as ladybug number two for our class play. I have performed in over a dozen shows and a couple years ago assistant directed a regional premiere performance at Brigham Young University of Wonderland by Frank Wildhorn. I graduated from BYU with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts Studies and I am now working on my Master of Arts in Arts Administration at Southern Utah University. That is the power that theatre has.
At the time that I am writing this letter I have just completed my first semester in the program including a class centered on arts advocacy and cultural policy. I have always considered myself to be an advocate for the arts, but it wasn’t until I took this class that I learned how important the arts are not just to our humanity but to the structure, success, and advancement of our country. You ran for office, using frequently the phrase, “We are in a battle for the soul of this nation.” Are not the arts and humanities a part of that soul?
Our second President John Adams wrote, “I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.” 180 years later, President John F. Kennedy said, “There is a connection, hard to explain logically but easy to feel, between achievement in public life and progress in the arts. The age of Pericles was also the age of Phidias. The age of Lorenzo de Medici was also the age of Leonardo da Vinci. The age of Elizabeth was also the age of Shakespeare. And the New Frontier for which I campaign in public life, can also be a New Frontier for American art.” President Adams was on the right track, recognizing the importance of the arts as a field of study, but President Kennedy took it one step further noting that in some “hard to explain logically” way, achievement in public life is connected to progress in the arts.
I never wish for the President of the United States to fail. While I have high respect for the office of the President of the United States, that does not always mean necessarily that I respect the person in office. The last four years have been difficult for many Americans and we look to you with faith that your administration might heal the wounds that our country is currently nursing. This last year, in the midst of a pandemic, has been particularly difficult for those of us in the arts community. 5.1 million jobs across the country are in the arts and culture sector and 2.7 million of those arts workers are currently unemployed. Even including those who are still employed during the pandemic, 94% of arts workers reported income loss in 2020 and 47% of arts organizations still do not have a target date to reopen. In my arts advocacy class, that I mentioned previously, our midterm assignment was to research the cultural policies of a country other than our own. Out of the approximately 15 students in my class, almost every country researched had an arts and/or cultural policy department of their federal government. I, along with many other arts workers, plead with you to consider expanding the presidential cabinet to establish a United States Department of Arts and Culture. President Elect Biden, Vice President Elect Harris, if you are truly fighting for the soul of our nation as your campaign proclaimed, we must remember that the soul of a nation rests on the humanity of its citizens. I believe that arts and culture are that humanity. Thank you for your time and consideration.