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Michael Stoll: Who needs the arts?

Another Austin ArtWorks Festival is upon us this weekend; the 10th such festival if I’m not mistaken. Throughout Saturday and Sunday, downtown Austin will be inundated with artists of different mediums, be it paint on canvas, the written word, clay, metal, music, etc.

But why? What for?

Who really needs the arts?

Have you ever really looked at a painting with any degree of appreciation, pondering what the artist was trying to convey or which brush strokes were used to capture the realism of a painted portrait?

Have you ever really stared in wonder at a photograph of something you perhaps have never seen before and taken the time to appreciate the effort on the part of the photographer to capture that moment?

Have you ever really seen a sculpture, be it metal, clay, marble or some other medium, and appreciated the attention to detail and the steadiness of the hands that made it?

Have you ever really read a novel, short story, or poem that made you laugh, cry, feel inspired, or, at the very least, let you get lost in another world?

Have you ever really taken in a live theatre performance and convinced yourself that the actors are not themselves, but the characters they portray?

Have you ever really listened to a song, whether live or recorded, and felt your emotions stirred?

If you answered no to any other questions, then the answer to the title question is you. You need the arts!

But not just you. Everyone needs the arts in some form, whether it is as a means to appreciate the beauty around us, promote creativity, or advocate for a just cause.

Simply put, the arts make the world a better place.

And yet the arts tend to be the first thing to get cut when money gets tight, both on local and federal levels. The arts, it’s reasoned, are not “essential” and therefore not worth the extra resources.

I know of some people who would disagree:

• “The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions that have been concealed by the answers.” — James Baldwin.

• “Without music, life would be a mistake.” —Friedrich Nietzsche.

• “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

• “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” — Paul Klee

• “The primary benefit of practicing any art, whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow.” — Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

In Austin, we’re lucky to live in a community that emphasizes the importance of the arts. So this weekend, take the time to visit the ArtWorks Festival and show your appreciation for the arts.