May 12, 2022

Are the Arts Essential?

In conversation with contributing writers Jeffrey Brown, chief correspondent for arts, culture, and society at PBS NewsHour and Cristal Truscott, playwright, director, scholar, culture worker, facilitator, and founder of Progress Theatre.

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 engaging essays, these luminaries join together to address this question and to share their ideas, experiences, and ambitions for the arts. 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.

Presented with the Heinz Endowments

Jeffrey Brown

Jeffrey Brown

Book Cover

Cristal Truscott

Cristal Truscott

"A profoundly important and timely compilation. This book illustrates the ways in which the arts are urgent—from meeting societal needs, strengthening our communities, and benefiting individual lives, to engaging the sciences and relaying our histories to each other—while reinforcing the value of all of the arts."

Agnes Gund, President Emerita, Museum of Modern Art