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The Benefits of Art and Music

Free Write: How The Arts Benefit Society

"The Artist at Work" by Harry Dinnerstein

It’s easy to look up facts about how students with good art and music programs in their schools do better on tests and in school, but it’s hard to quantify how the arts as a whole benefit our society. The temptation is to say that an understanding of the arts make us better people, but perhaps that is a bit too dramatic of a conclusion. If we understand the arts, though, we gain a sensitivity to other people’s creativity and, theoretically, a better chance of understanding that person as a whole.

I’m not saying every student should learn high-level art or music theory, but I do think even an exposure to studying the arts can open up a whole new way of thinking. Art and music are subjects unlike science and math and even unlike history and English, as there are not questions and answers, but rather compositions and creations. They benefit us on an intellectual level because it forces us to think in a way that we were not talk.

Also, it’s significant to consider the time we live in and the generation each of us are from. For me, I know that communicating with other people on a human level is getting more and more difficult. A lot of my friends are even afraid to make a phone call by themselves. By looking at art and music, we look at a human expression of a feeling. Sometimes it’s easier to connect to this feeling than it is to connect to another person explaining how they feel or what they’ve been through, and I think that in turn increases the human connection to one another.

Greg Sandow wrote an article about how the arts make us better people by increasing our capacity for empathy as well as expanding our cognitive growth. Read more about that here. It’s hard to find proof for these in journals or scientific studies, but it’s easy to see how the arts affect the people in the world around you.

I know not everyone will agree and not everyone will feel the same way about art and music, and that’s fine. However, I don’t think it’s fair to remove arts funding from schools because that would take away someone’s opportunity to feel intellectual growth outside a non-traditional academic setting.

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YouTube: Where Has It Taken Us?

YouTube – What economic, artistic, cultural impacts do you imagine YouTube could have on American society and why?

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YouTube affects American society the way most social media networks do, by exemplifying the extremes and furthering the human connection to technology and the Internet. By its very nature, the Internet is cold and inhumane, completely imagined two-dimensional pages that have no warmth. Even our Facebook and Twitter homepages have elements of a clinical and desensitized blue.

YouTube reimagines that. It allows people to easily record themselves and put a human face to the Internet, as well as to express all of their innermost thoughts. Whether they do this via video blogs or via funny or created videos, every post on YouTube says something about its user by showing what that user thinks is worthy of a video. In that way YouTube is more engaging than a lot of the more informational sites on the Internet. Thus, YouTube culturally affects American society by strengthening the deep bond that it has with technology and the age of information. On the flip side of that, though, YouTube also brings out the very worst in people, particularly when it comes to racism and racist comments. I do not fully understand why this is, but I think it may come from American society’s pressure to constantly be politically correct. When the masses are given a platform where they can say whatever they want with no one to hold them accountable, maybe they take it a little too far.

There is a documented “Youtube Effect” which shows how Youtube has made everyone a sort of “citizen journalist.” This is a proven way that Youtube connects people to what’s going on all around the world, and importantly engages the youngest generation to conflicts and issues that could be thousands of miles away.

Economically, YouTube’s effect depends on the market you are considering. It definitely expands a company’s options for marketing, and if the company is capable of low-cost creation of a video, they can then post that video for free. On that same note, though, anyone can post a review of any product, whether it’s just or not, on YouTube, for free. Recently, the appearance of YouTube ads has definitely detracted from the free market origins of YouTube. I remember the days when I was younger and there were no ads on YouTube videos, but when they started showing up, most people didn’t complain even as much as they do when Facebook changes its layout. It was an inevitable inconvenience, but I do wonder how much of my life I waste on those 30 second suckers.

Artistically, YouTube has had less of an impact in my life than it may have in society in general. I don’t really care to search through YouTube for works of cinematic genius; I just like the puppy videos. However, I do think there is some merit to the accessibility of this platform for displaying creativity. Youtube “stars” are born, and suddenly everyone gets to hear what they have to say, no matter what it is.

I honestly don’t think YouTube was as groundbreaking in its effect on society as other social media sites, but it clearly had some significance. Perhaps it is just a cog in the larger scheme of the Internet’s revolution.

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Audio Mixing and the Struggle of A2

Creating/Mixing Audio: If you struggled with A2 or if you felt like you were behind, why did this happen for you? As the instructor, I’ve noticed that many more people seemed behind than on the visual assignment. Is there something about working with audio that makes it more difficult than working with visual materials? What are the unique challenges of working with audio? What are the lessons that we could offer to other noobs? 

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A2 was way more taxing on me academically than A1, and that caused a lot of stress for me. First, I had gotten my A1 assignment back and had not gotten the grade I expected. This affected my A2 assignment because I guess I had it in my head that no matter what I would not be able to anticipate the scale of subjectivity in my grade. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the system of grading in the class because there are technical elements to be graded, but ultimately the final product most also be judged as “good” or “bad.”

With that being said, I did still have a pretty secure idea of what I wanted to do and I executed it—but barely. One of the biggest problems I noticed was that we were given little instruction and the instruction was the most basic elements. I think Audacity and Garage Band are far too different from Photoshop to set us out with a short lesson and expect us to be comfortable. Even if someone had not been familiar with Photoshop, there is a strong element of fun in working with it. Even if you don’t know exactly what all the tools are, there are definitely a few tools that look like the tools we used in MS Paint as kids, and ultimately manipulating images, if tedious, has a pleasing outcome.

Audacity is not like that. I felt very limited to the two tools I knew how to use and everything else was foreign to me. Also, the end product is not something I was excited about (no one wants to hear two minutes of their voice). Beyond that, I didn’t feel like I was mixing audio at all, I was just chopping different pieces around and throwing them back together with little finesse. I know there’s a whole world of tools and details to mixing audio, so it almost seemed crass and disrespectful the way we had create a piece so quickly and with so little knowledge. It just seemed like this project was set out on a much smaller timeframe than the last one, and that frustrated me because it happened to fall on a terrible week midterm-wise (isn’t it always that way?!).

Another unique challenge of working with audio is the presentation. With a visual piece, you present it and then someone can look at it for a brief or extended period of time, but a audio piece is, theoretically, meant to be presented once, for that length of time, and understood with in those constraints. Getting an entire rhetorical concept seemed like such a huge feat to me with those limitations, and that caused much anxiety for me.

I don’t know what lessons I have to offer, but I think it would be really beneficial to spend a lot more time in the beginning going over what Audacity can do. Perhaps giving all of the students a sample piece of audio and then together step-by-step doing some manipulation to it would make them feel more secure in the world of audio mixing. Needless to say, I don’t think I’ll be spending a lot of time with Audacity after this class.

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Why Arts Funding Should Be Something We’re Talking About… Online

Digital Activism: Why does your social justice theme/topic warrant a specifically digital response?

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The issue of arts and music funding is particularly pressing in these economic times. In order for public schools to operate, many of them must pass their budgets and make cuts, and the first programs to be cut are often those relating to the arts and music. Their argument is simple: the arts and music do not teach skills that children need to better themselves academically and go to college. I always suspected that really the argument should be that the arts and music do not teach skills that children need to pass standardized tests and meet the goals set by the school district. But I digress.

This alone makes the issue one that should be responded to digitally. By spreading the word via the Internet, people who may have never thought of it as a problem before can begin to learn. Even if someone just sees a snapshot of an article detailing how beneficial music lessons can be for a child, that article can leave a subconscious impression on that person that the arts and music really are useful and important. These baby steps are key to changing how society as a whole reflects on art or music class. It’s easy to forget that art class was good for you in your elementary school days, or perhaps music class did not benefit you that much, but that does not take away from the fact that there are young students out there who can advance from such programs. By creating a widespread, digital response to the issue of disappearing arts programs, we grasp the chance to give more people a positive perception of them.

Further, some of the very skills learned in arts programs are those that would be used in making this digital response. One could argue that the creativity we see in many Internet users today could have been fostered by an early exposure to the arts. Although this is just conjecture, there is evidence that many professional fields do require people to think in a creative, nontraditional way in order to solve problems. There is also concrete evidence that the arts give students skills and ways of thinking beyond the norm. These skills go beyond those of analysis and logic that come from English and math classes. They require a new point of view, which can be provided by exploring self-expression in art and music.

The arts benefit people collectively, too, by creating a sort of social capital, which is when people can bond despite perceived differences. Again, this helps people in the workplace and in life. In regards to why this warrants an online response, the explanation is easy–because the Internet can disconnect people from face-to-face interaction, the social capital the arts foster has a high value.

The issue of funding the arts and music requires a digital response most of all because it is an urgent problem. School programs are be continually cut and devalued, and if this perspective and action isn’t changed soon, they could disappear completely. Politically, this problem is definitely not brought to the forefront by today’s politicians, so instead society must find a way to push it there, and the Internet has always been a great tool for rediscovering lost issues. By placing a higher value on arts programs, we are placing a higher value on the creative mind, and the best way to spread that word is digitally.

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The Internet: A Free for All or a Place of Freedoms?

The Internet: To what extent is the Internet fundamentally democratic?

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In theory, the Internet should not be democratic—it should be anarchy. There is no single regulating force or regime that decides what is important or what isn’t (unless you have some Google-is-Big-Brother theory, but for the sake of this blog’s length, we’ll pretend you don’t). I think the Internet is indeed democratic, but I believe the question is flawed in asserting that that is the “right” or “natural” state of the Internet.

These days, I feel like the word democracy has gotten misconstrued. Its definition is as follows:

de·moc·ra·cy [dih-mok-ruh-see]

noun, plural de·moc·ra·cies.

1. government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

Thus, a democracy does have a specific power that is controlling the system. The Internet does not have this, nor will ever truly have this. Granted, some countries regulate their Internet, but that is not the doing of the Internet and its constituents as a whole. A democratic Internet would be one where every single user has the opportunity to decide how the Internet works, like what can be put on it, what is stealing from the Internet, and other such issues. However, the Internet does not have that or need that. It is, for all intents and purposes, a free for all. Granted, there are certain regulations with copyright and laws in the United States, but these do not exist in the Internet. In fact, a lot of the exist because of the Internet, like laws regulating music downloading because of Napster, for example.

Also, one must consider that the Internet is not a body that even truly can have one system of government. Instead, it is the amalgamation of a mass of ideas from different people, different languages, different societies, different countries, etc. etc. This is what I think makes the Internet a little democratic. The pressures of what is popular and what isn’t creates a sort of “election,” as what “wins” is what will pop up first on other social media sites.

To return to the original question, I do not think the Internet is fundamentally democratic nor should it be. Instead, it has a ghost structure of a democratic system due to the way it operates and forces certain issues to the forefront. It also interestingly has a much more complicated system of “parties,” mirroring the political parties we see in America today both literally and in other areas. These parties are the users you see competing with one another on Twitter, forums, and other posts.

There is plenty of evidence that the Internet influences democracy, but the Internet itself is not a structure that can be democratic. Although the Internet has some elements that make it seem democratic, it simply cannot be due to its sheer size.

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The Importance of Arts Funding

Why Fund the Arts?

The arts are an essential part of our everyday lives, whether we notice it or not.

From the design of the building you walk through to the music you hear in the elevator, someone somewhere had to embrace a feeling of creativity in order to create so many of the sensory elements in our everyday lives. Before that artist could create some actual piece, though, he or she had to be trained to do so, or at least given the tools and opportunity to embrace a natural talent.

All too often, this is stunted by:

  • the cutting of visual arts programs in schools
  • the cutting of music programs in schools
  • the lack of free after school art programs
  • the lack of free community music and art programs
  • schools emphasizing the importance of academic disciplines over the arts

Children are receiving less of a chance to learn a skill outside of the traditional reading and arithmetic we teach them. Thus, the issue of arts funding is relevant to all of our lives.

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How Scarce Is Funding?

According to The City Wire, the annual amount of funding for the Arts, including state, local, and national dollars, is $350 million. This “contributed income” is less than 13% of what supports Arts programs, while closer to 44% of funding for the arts actually comes from the arts itself by way of revenue generation. The National Endowment for the Arts is the independent national organization founded by the U.S. government in 1965, and its purpose is to “support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities” according to its website. To date, it has granted more than $4 billion in that mission.

Consider how minuscule this amount is in comparison to the annual budget of the United States is. For example, in 2013, the approved budget had estimated expenditures of over $38 trillion dollars. Yet, a very insignificant portion of that went to funding the arts or the arts education.

Check out more information about the NEA here.

But Why Should the Government Fund the Arts?

I am in no way suggesting we should radically alter the way we operate as a country by shifting ridiculous amounts of funding towards the arts. Instead, I am suggesting a small but definite increase in arts education funding. I want there to be enough for students to have a music class once a week or have access to art supplies, or most of all have the option of an after school or community art program. Our government is already huge, so I dismiss the argument that allowing the government to get more involved in arts funding is unnecessary or somehow unconstitutional. Our government has a duty to its people to fund programs that better the quality of life, and the arts can do that.

Other countries spend significantly more on arts funding than the United States, as evidenced here by the Canada Council for the Arts.

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Click image to enlarge.

Explore the entire U.S. budget here.

What are the Benefits?

By giving kids a place to go after school to do something positive, or even by teaching them a creative hobby within school that they can foster on their own, we brighten their futures. The problem exists everywhere in the U.S. Kids don’t always have a healthy environment to grow up in nor a family that will guide them in the right direction, and those values are difficult to regulate. However, we can give them the gift of the arts. By giving kids this chance, we increase the chance that they will stay off the streets and away from drug or gang involvement, especially in inner cities. Everywhere, though, we give kids the chance to see themselves as someone who has a future or a talent, whether they gain that from picking up an instrument or from picking up a paintbrush.

Today the arts are expanding into the realm of technology—and this part I find particularly relevant to today’s society. If we give kids the education about digital media as art, they can transform that into a marketable skill. The possibilities are endless. In conclusion, arts funding is an issue that should take audience with all members of the U.S. public, as it affects our everyday lives and the overall sense of society we have as a nation.