Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Channeling Howard Beale

This will not surprise you, though your lack of surprise should sadden me: I have never allowed my lack of knowledge or information to keep from having an opinion. Consider that a disclaimer of sorts for what follows, because while I should be sorry what I’m about to offer, instead I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to finally express it. 

The Norwich Arts Events Committee sponsored a “brown bag summit” open to the public a fortnight ago that attracted some forty people from across the City. While I regretted not being able to attend, I felt the newspaper account of the meeting had a terrific “you are there” presence I deeply appreciated.   

Maybe it’s the unrelenting winter we’ve had so far, or maybe it’s a concern I have had that too often we confuse talking about solving problems with actually solving them.

If I may in one sentence attempt to describe our biggest challenge it is this: Norwich needs to become a place where people want to come home to.

Feel free to add any and all demographic adjectives and modifiers that you’d like to that sentence. But in terms of the demographics in our census data since 1990, understand we are becoming home to the very old and the very poor. And just about no one else.

I know. What does any of that have to with “the arts?”

You mean aside from putting quotations around the words except, of course, when we talk about the arts and music programs in our public schools, because we don’t have to because those have become a luxury we can no longer afford in our classrooms.

Live larger, think bigger.

When we hope to make “the arts” an engine of development in Norwich, who do we think those artists will be, where they will come from and how will they grow into the creative forces others from beyond our borders will support if/when we don’t invest in programs that broaden our children’s horizons while enriching our city.

And, quick note to a Board of Education that annually wrings its hands about how a “very tight” budget leaves no room for arts, music and language programs that neighboring districts offer as a matter of course, and then sits back as if that pronouncement helps anyone or anything at all.

Why not search out the attendees from the summit and insist on being part of larger conversations and collaborations that return “the arts” to our classrooms and which allow the many talented community hobbyists who play music for the love of it to share that enthusiasm with a whole new audience of school children. Don’t tell me we can’t do this when what you mean is we won’t.  

We can all only benefit, from the youngest to the oldest in our community, when we work as one beyond the confines of organizations and bureaucracies. The bad news is there’s no part of Norwich that’s not broken-but the good news is there’s no part we cannot fix.
-bill kenny  

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