Creativity, the arts and Obama

Tech Crunch pointed to the Citizen’s Briefing Book on President Elect Barack Obama’s website The ideas presented in the book are open to be voted on by readers, and will be compiled into a book to be presented to the new President after he’s sworn into office. (Whether or not he’ll read it is, I suppose, another matter entirely.)

I searched the pool of entries in the Book for “Art” and discovered a few relevant results, including one called Focus on the art[s] and creativity. The very brief suggestion, by someone using the handle Maples, is short enough I’ll just quote it here:

    It is always the arts that are first to be cut back in our schools and communities, yet the arts are at the very center of creativity. This is where creative skills are born, not just for artists and musicians, but for scientists, engineers, researchers, innovators, and all thinking peoples. Now, if ever, is the time when we need creative thought and creative action to find the means and the human energy and spirit to find our way out of the problems that face us.

This sounds somewhat similar to Huckabee’s position on the arts, which I pointed out in 2007. “Art and music are as important as math and science because the dreamers and visionaries among us take the rough straw of an idea and spin it into the gold of new businesses and jobs,” he said on his website. “Our future economy depends on a creative generation.”

They’re both right.

Creativity is not just artistic, and being able to think critically about the arts will improve a person’s mental faculties in general. Some Americans — many of them, probably — don’t realize the importance of the arts. Our culture (and subsequently our cultural mindset) is overly zealous for efficiency, productivity and profitability. In and of themselves these are fine ideals, but American culture has elevated said corporate gods to the point that competing cultural interests are looked down upon. One of the detracting responses, by one Kevin J. Kauth, to Maples’ suggestion is textbook:

    Arts are great but math and science are more important to survival. Arts impove quality of life, but don’t help us make food, medicine, technology ect. They are right to be the first to go. Mandating that they come back is not the way to responsibly get them back. Improving a school to the point that it can afford the arts on its own is the onl way to go. [sic, all]

The fine arts may not directly result in food or technology, but they are grounded in crafts which act as the cornerstone to many basic aspects of life. Without metal smiths we wouldn’t have plows to till the dirt. Without potters we wouldn’t have plates to eat food from those fields. Without carpenters and stone masons there wouldn’t be shelter from the 10 degree weather, like I woke up to this morning. And without the craft of writing we would be prone to forget the many practical, political, technological and philosophical lessons our forefathers figured out for us.

Further, if we forgo the creative aspects of our educations — whether formal or informal schooling — there won’t be the same advances in other aspects of our culture. As an example, the connection between music and mathematics goes back to the 5th century B.C. and Pythagoras of Samos. Art is communication. Art is educating. Art is an extension of a God-ordained human culture, and we would be amiss to ignore any one part of that divine culture.

That said, what do you think Obama’s best move is with respect to the arts? Should he ignore them? Should he endorse them without taking any action? Three or four posts on the Citizen’s Briefing Book suggest establishing a Secretary of Arts and Culture. Should he throw money at artists? I read at least three entries in the Citizen’s book suggesting a resurrection of the WPA (Read more about the failure of this Depression era approach — specifically as it relates to architecture — in this Architecture + Morality post.). Should he create opportunities for them?


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

One Response to Creativity, the arts and Obama

  1. The arts are the soul of a nation. Math and science are its brain.

    We are losing our soul.

    I am an art teacher, and the cuts are tragic.

    Obama included this in his election platform:

    Now we need to work diligently, locally, and tirelessly.

    This was an excellent post, thanks. I am blogrolling you immediately. Please continue!

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