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Letter: We all need to be ‘monuments men’

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT

To the Editor:

I have written much about the importance of visual arts (all arts) education.  It seems I find myself with the news of late.

The so-called “Greatest Generation,” those who at home and abroad brought us safely out of World War II and Nazi oppression, recognized that to save our physical lives was not enough. They knew we also needed to save our expressive, cultural selves by rescuing much of the world’s art and artifacts stolen and threatened by Hitler’s wrath.

These rescuers, these “Monuments Men” and women (their story currently documented in text and major motion picture) understood that art is life, that history is known largely through study of the visual arts and expressions of our ancestors, governments and theologians.

In other words, to save art is to save what makes us tick; what presents itself from one place and time to another; what propels and compels us; what gifts us with awe; what inspires aspiration.

We agree with these goals. We respect what they did. So, why do so many of us think of art as frivolity? Will it take reaction to an oppressive regime to drive the benefits of vitality from arts learning?

We are too preoccupied pumping ahead with technology and too busy continuing to buy into the bottom line mentality of not what we teach, but how we assess it.

We all need to be “Monuments Men.” We need to remember our debt to what the arts have taught us. We need to champion both old and new arts expression and believing that it matters. It is, for many, a life-saving and affirming foundation for being. As I was fond of telling my students: As human beings, you can’t go through one day without it.

Fine arts education in tandem with science exploration and engineering isn’t just captivating and fun; it’s an invaluable combination for progressive human future.

Art is not a throwaway. It isn’t simply a hobby. Art is human, documentary of whom we are, but more, who we can become while enriching our path from here to wherever.

I’m not sure if we’ll get to a point of understanding this where it becomes engrained and art is valued as necessary before something dire happens to us, but I want us to try. 

Let’s not leave critical arts learning behind. Let’s pack it up with life’s staples and respect its essential nourishment.

Julie Sorensen

Sycamore

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