Support the arts, and the NEA

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To the Editor:

If you know me, it is probably through your kid or your aging parent. I work as an artist educator, bringing creative movement to classrooms, community centers, libraries, and senior centers around the Island of Martha’s Vineyard. Every day, I am lucky enough to see the transformative power of moment. I feel proud to be a young woman dedicated through movement education to fostering in youth and adults an understanding of how to work cooperatively, how to solve problems creatively, how to learn to watch and respect the creative voices of others, how to appreciate their own beautiful and challenging bodies, and how to discover their own powerful creative potential.

According to Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts industry generates $22.3 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenues annually — a yield well beyond their collective $4 billion in arts allocations, which is why the Trump administration’s undermining of support for the arts for “economic reasons” seems based on alternative facts. In a creative movement classroom, I work to facilitate the expression, problem solving, and choice making of the students, rather than dictating to them the way to make their dances. Through this sort of education, we train our children to know their own voices, and encourage them to be thinkers, solvers, and discerning questioners. In other words, we train them to be democratic citizens with lives that matter: the kind of citizens who question authority, demand to be heard, and refuse to be abused.

Our schools need more arts education. Schools, especially those struggling, can retain their best teachers by becoming incubators for creativity and innovation; places where students want to learn and teachers want to teach. Students with an education rich in the arts have better grade-point averages, score better on standardized tests in reading and math, and have lower dropout rates — findings that cut across all socioeconomic categories.

Congress and state education leaders should support strong arts education programs, and local school leaders should include the arts, in all disciplines (dance, theater, music, visual, and media arts), in their curriculum. Our rural communities contain some of the greatest cultural assets of our country.

The robust cohort of “Island-grown” and “Island home” artists on Martha’s Vineyard proves that, and we must continue to foster the arts in other rural schools and communities nationwide. Please join me in encouraging politicians to not only keep and maintain the NEA, but expand and promote it, and please join me in celebrating the Island’s youth, adults, and aging seniors through joyous dance together.

Leah Crosby
Chilmark