Monday, April 19, 2021

Make art, culture priorities in life

September 20, 2011


Back in the 1970s, the Detroit Institute of Art, or DIA, created a commercial using the music to the song “You Gotta Have Heart” from the Broadway musical “Damn Yankees,” and changing the lyrics and the word “Heart” to “Art.”

“You Gotta Have Art” made a memorable and entertaining case for the value and importance of the DIA and its collection. Along the way, the commercial showcased and helped prove the value of the written and performing arts as well.

Reviewing past, present and future MSU arts and cultural offerings available on- and off-campus, the case made by the DIA video is only strengthened. The breadth and depth of the arts offerings on campus and in the greater mid-Michigan community is incredible. If you doubt it, explore the arts and culture-related courses available on the Registrar’s site or look at the events on MSU’s arts and culture website:

While you’re there, why not commit to attending one or more of the scheduled events? Go and experience the pure joy and excitement that arts and culture can bring, as mind and emotions reel. Chills run up and down the back. Tears flow. Thoughts turn upside down. People react, gain expanded understanding and take action. This is the life essence of arts and culture.

That said, why then do local, regional and federal government representatives and bodies always seem to assail and disrespect the arts when budgets tighten? Why are arts and cultural programming some of the first to go when local school boards balance their budgets? Certainly the value is there, and has been proven time and again from the early days of civilization and emerging cultures to recent results of a Michigan-focused study by MSU researchers.
The up-shot of the research, according to MSU News, is that “Michigan is hurting its chances at economic recovery by slashing funding for the arts. … The study found that arts and crafts activities – such as painting, dancing and filmmaking – are closely related to success of the scientists, engineers and other innovators who create new companies and inventions that stimulate the economy.

“Yet during the past decade Michigan has cut funding for the arts by some 90 percent – from about $25 million in 2002 to $2.3 million this year.”

According to MSU News, Rex LaMore, lead researcher on the project and director of MSU’s Center of Community and Economic Development, said “Politicians often strip funding for arts and cultural assets, assuming they are expendable ‘extras,’ but this may be a serious policy error based on false assumptions.”

Finding there was a lack of formal research on the issue, MSU researchers set out to determine whether exposure to the arts influences innovation, according to MSU News. They studied MSU Honors College graduates who earned a science or technology degree between 1990 and 1995.

The release on the research findings notes that “… there was a close relationship between arts and crafts experiences and graduates who went on to produce patentable inventions and create new companies. … these graduates had more extensive arts and crafts skills than the average American, and also believed their innovative ability was stimulated by their arts and crafts knowledge.”

As a result, the MSU researchers recommended a three-fold plan of attack for policymakers: “Recognize the importance of arts and crafts in supporting innovation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Recognize that funding of arts and crafts is critical in supporting Michigan’s economic transformation. Support research into the best ways to provide arts and crafts exposure.”
LaMore also said more support of the arts could ultimately help stop Michigan’s “self-perpetuating cycle of unemployment and brain drain.”

But, clearly, the strongest voices of support for the arts – those of the artists, institutions, teachers, art collectives, cooperatives, associations and organizations – cannot do it alone. The general public, including MSU students, faculty, and staff, must also voice their concerns. Support for the arts cannot afford to wait until they are under attack. The arts are too important. And as we all know, funding today, does not guarantee funding tomorrow.

So, what can we do?

Help prove the value of the arts every day. Proclaim the importance of art to our daily lives. Link art wherever and whenever you can to increased creativity and innovation; to business and revenue generation; to putting heads in beds; and globally, to peace, justice and understanding.

Demonstrate to the world why “You Gotta Have Art.”

Mike Jenkins is a State News guest columnist and Communications Director for the College of Arts and Letters. Reach him at


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