Get Back on the Field (Janet's Blog)

(3-29-2011)  It’s easy to be cynical these days. The news is filled with disasters that keep me awake at night. Our governments at every level seek quick solutions to financial crises, which almost always hurts those who can afford it least. Compassion and civility are overshadowed by a need to be on the winning team. It’s enough to make a person cynical.

Yet, we are blessed in our work with artists who, for a moment, pull us away from human tragedy and transform us into a world where beauty and truth prevail. That happened to me last weekend. I attended a performance of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater at Seattle's beautiful Fifth Avenue Theatre. A powerful performance, amplified by gorgeous music, sound, lighting and costumes and athletic and graceful dancers who transformed me from my seat in a theatre to a place of sheer celebration. The audience was diverse, young to old, people of every ethnicity. They were jubilant and grateful to be there. I could feel it in the room. I heard it in the applause and roar of the crowd after each segment. The unifying power of the artists on the stage was palpable. “Sometimes the magic works.”

It’s hard to be cynical when you are celebrating. That’s the power of the arts and the power of the work we continue to do every day to promote artists and support arts organizations. I’ve been worried lately about my own cynicism. Do we want to fight another battle about the NEA? Can we possibly ward off all the threats to state arts agencies? Is it really possible to convince those people who just don’t get it that art is important in every person’s life and not just a pastime for the wealthy? Seems like I’ve been in this battle all my life.

Then I have a personal experience like I had last Friday. Transformational, inspirational and most importantly, a call to action that reminds me why I’m in this business and what we must do, one person at the time, to make our world a better place. So it’s time to get “back on the field.” (This is a phrase my brother uses whenever we talk about setbacks in our lives.) It’s time to recommit to fight harder, longer, tougher and without reserve for artists and arts organizations. Because we’re not just supporting artists, we are celebrating the human spirit and its ability to overcome tragedy, injustice, deceit and greed. We’re fighting for a world of beauty and truth. We can’t do that by being cynical.