Are the Arts Essential: Los Angeles
June 23, 2022
Are the Arts Essential?, edited by Alberta Arthurs and Michael DiNiscia, provides a timely and kaleidoscopic reflection on the importance of the arts in our society. Contributors Steven Tepper (Dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, ASU), Zeyba Rahman (Senior Program Officer, Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art), and Jay Wang (Director, USC Center on Public Diplomacy) joined together in a conversation around this vital question moderated by Karen Ishizuka (Chief Curator, JANM). This panel explored the needs of an increasingly diverse and global society and the role of the arts in nurturing a global mind.
This program was presented by the Japanese American National Museum, USC Center on Public Diplomacy, and NYU Brademas Center.
About the Book
In the midst of a devastating pandemic, as theaters, art galleries and museums, dance stages and concert halls shuttered their doors indefinitely and institutional funding for entertainment and culture evaporated almost overnight, a cohort of highly acclaimed scholars, artists, cultural critics, and a journalist sat down to ponder an urgent question: Are the arts essential?
Across twenty-five highly engaging essays, these luminaries join together to address this question and to share their own ideas, experiences, and ambitions for the arts. Darren Walker discusses the ideals of justice and fairness advanced through the arts; Mary Schmidt Campbell shows us how artists and cultural institutions helped New York overcome the economic crisis of the 1970s, bringing new investment and creativity to the city; Deborah Willis traces histories of oppression and disenfranchisement documented by photographers; and Oskar Eustis offers a brief history lesson on how theaters have built communities since the Golden Age of Athens. Other topics include the vibrancy and diversity of Muslim culture in America during a time of rising Islamophobia; the strengthening of the common good through the art and cultural heritages of indigenous communities; digital data aggregation informing and influencing new art forms; and the jazz lyricisms of a theater piece inspired by a composer’s two-month coma.
Drawing on their experiences across the spectrum of the arts, from the performing and visual arts to poetry and literature, the contributors remind readers that the arts are everywhere and, in one important way after another, they question, charge and change us. These impassioned essays remind us of the human connections the arts can forge—how we find each other through the arts, across the most difficult divides, and how the arts can offer hope in the most challenging times.
What answer does this convocation offer to Are the Arts Essential? A resounding Yes.