Killing the arts

Editor’s Note: So y’all I’m in Hartsville, S.C. where Burry Bookstore has joined with Durant’s Children’s Center for a fundraiser. Join us Monday in Hartsville if you can. This week I will also be in Atlanta, Kathleen, Macon, Columbus, Ga, Auburn, Al, and Woodstock, Ga. For tour info check out this link:

Meanwhile, dear friends like Amy Sorrells have offered to share a bit of their own stories with you. I hope you enjoy Amy as much as I do. You can find Amy at her own blog by clicking here.


By Amy K. Sorrells


My mama always told me never to talk about religion or politics with strangers.

But I figured what better place to do that than right here on Karen’s blog.

After all, she doesn’t shy away from either of these. Particularly when injustice is involved.

And there’s injustice in my town.

You see, my town is murdering the arts.

If you visited my town, you’d never suspect folks here capable of such atrocity. Brick streets lend old-fashioned charm to quaint shops, and the smell of homemade meals wafts through open windows of restaurants.

Then again, atrocity usually happens when–and where–least suspected. (Read Karen’s new book if you doubt this.)

Years ago, the town decided it wanted to guard itself from out-of-towners and chain-based businesses. When a neighborhood—nice by most standards—sprung up by the interstate, the town fought it, because the homes were build with vinyl siding.

Lord have mercy.

Then folks were up in arms when Wal-Mart tried to build on the eyesore corner of the main drag and the interstate—a far drive and out of sight from the little brick street.

Other businesses tried to come, too, but folks said no.

Leave us alone.

We like things the way they are.

Several months ago, I drove a carload of teenagers to a sports camp, and one boy blurted out, “This town is pretty white. I sure hope it stays that way.”

Suffice it to say that young man learned real quick he picked the wrong car in which to speak such prejudice. But sadly, I doubt if my lecture—which rivaled a Tony Campollo sermon—made a difference to him. His mind was set. Keep it white. Keep it the same. Keep out change.

Towns like this set on hillsides and tucked in valleys all across our great United States, and ultimately, they’re myopic infatuation with themselves hurts the innocent.

Which brings me back to my town and murder.

See, no change for our community meant no growth of a tax base to support the major influx of residents. People wanted to move here because it’s so cute and quaint and vanilla. But homes alone can’t support schools. At least not in my state.

And this week, as a direct result of a non-existent tax base, our school board voted to cut music and arts at the middle schools. No cuts to sports. No cuts to administrators. No other creative funding suggestions.

Just an across the board cut to the arts.

A murder of sorts, don’t you think?

I nearly vomited. I still want to, even as I type.

Because you see, there’s no bench for kids who play music. There’s no B-team for kids who hold a paintbrush or spin a potters wheel. There’s no pummeling of the weak kid with a dodge ball for those who pen poems and sonnets and half notes.

I was one of those kids, so I know.

Art and music saves lives.

And here’s the religion part of all this politics: art and music are eternal.

God Himself is the great creator, and because we are His image-bearers, the deepest, purest parts of us long to create. Kids don’t have to strain to hear Him in a symphony. They don’t have to wear special glasses to see him in color and shape and form. He is everywhere and especially in the arts.

But in suburban America, it seems pride, sports and salaries trump art these days.

It’s like this scene, below, from the movie, Mr. Holland’s Opus.

“You know what we’re doing wrong?” Mr. Holland, the band teacher, says to his student struggling with her clarinet. “We’re playing the notes on the page.”

“Play the sunset,” he tells her.

Without the arts, there’s no sunset. There’s no variegation. No dreams. No hope.

Just vanilla.



And unjust.

How are things in your town? Is arts funding on the line in your local schools? How can we, as Christ-followers, bring hope and justice such situations?

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  • Tim

    As a band geek, I really apreciate your thoughts here, Amy.

    I think arts funding is on the line everywhere. In our town, though, folks keep voting for special parcel tax measures to support school funding so that arts and other programs are kept alive. We have other problems in the local schools, but at least arts are doing ok.


  • AFRoger

    We might do well to ask ourselves what inspires young hearts and minds, what keeps them involved in school and life. Unfortunately, the exploding cost of health insurance has left less of the pie for other things in school district budgets across the country. Having to “save” money at the expense of the arts leaves us poorer as a people.