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More Funding for the Arts, Please

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Today, the arts are being cut to one of the lowest points in history. Like politics, funding is the mother's milk of continued prowess in the arts, but more is at stake than most people believe.

As demand for a new workforce to meet the challenges of a global knowledge economy is rapidly increasing, nothing could be more important in this period of our nation's history than art and an art infused education.

According to the Americans for the Arts in Washington, D.C., this is the only sector where the growth of arts jobs in publishing, television, graphic design and related fields is a bright spot in the present day dismal economy.

But as important as the traditional creative industries are, the payoff in almost every economic activity will be from people who can draw from both sides of their brain. The folks who have had art or art infused training and exposure to the arts are clearly at an advantage.

A number of think tanks argue that the elements are in place for the advance of the Creative Age, a period in which free, democratic nations thrive and prosper because of their tolerance for dissent, respect for individual enterprise, freedom of expression, and recognition that innovation, not mass production of low-value goods and services, is the driving force for the new economy.

The new economy's demand for creativity has manifested itself in the emergence and growth of what author Richard Florida has termed the "Creative Class." Although Florida defines this demographic group very broadly, he does a convincing job of outlining the facts of life and work in the new knowledge economy.

As he points out, "every aspect and every manifestation of creativity -- cultural, technological and economic -- is inextricably linked." By tracking certain migration patterns and trends, Richard Florida did a huge service for those struggling to redefine their communities for the new knowledge economy. However, many questions remain.

Can the community, through public art or cultural offerings, enhance the creativity of its citizens? And if the new economy so desperately demands the creative worker and leader, what should schools and universities do to prepare the next generation of creative people.

Until recently, there has been only limited evidence of the connection between education and appreciation of the arts, and success in the postindustrial age of information. But now it is becoming increasingly apparent that arts initiatives will be the hallmarks of the most-successful schools and universities and, in turn, the most-successful and vibrant twenty-first-century cities and regions.

Those communities placing a premium on cultural, ethnic, and artistic diversity, reinventing their knowledge factories for the creative age, and building the new information infrastructures will likely burst with creativity and entrepreneurial fervor.

These are the ingredients so essential to developing and attracting the bright and creative people to generate new patents and inventions, innovative world-class products and services, and the finance and marketing plans to support them.

Michael M. Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, created "Arts in Crisis: A Kennedy Center Initiative" to provide free arts management consulting to nonprofit performing arts organizations around the United States. Last summer he embarked on a 50-state tour for the program, bringing his expertise to every state in the union, along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

It may seem ludicrous to say it, but we really need to be spending more on the arts and art education.

Much more.