Support the arts, especially locally

James Phillips
Posted 3/8/17

As far as I can remember, my first stage performance was when I was around 10 years old. I played a brown bear in a children’s musical at my church.

Imagine the child in “A Christmas Story,” but instead of a pink bunny costume, I was in a brown bear outfit. I do not remember the premise of the play, but obviously it connected wild animals to Jesus in some fashion.

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Support the arts, especially locally

Posted

As far as I can remember, my first stage performance was when I was around 10 years old. I played a brown bear in a children’s musical at my church.

Imagine the child in “A Christmas Story,” but instead of a pink bunny costume, I was in a brown bear outfit. I do not remember the premise of the play, but obviously it connected wild animals to Jesus in some fashion.

Since that odd introduction to musical theatre, I have enjoyed performing on stage in a variety of ways, even in drag when it was deemed necessary. My children have picked up my love for the arts as well, dancing, singing and acting since they were each itty-bitty.

For a community our size, Walker County and Jasper have incredible opportunities as it relates to the arts, especially for children. After living in rural Mississippi for several years, that fact was very obvious for our family.

The Walker County Arts Alliance does an outstanding job of highlighting a variety of arts throughout the year. From Tasting of the Arts to Art in the Park to the annual dinner theatre, that group provides our community with something that most places our size just cannot offer. The Walker Area Community Foundation also is an entity that works hard to provide unique events, such as concerts at the Bankhead House and exhibits inside the home that highlight Walker County’s history.

Once we returned to Jasper last year, we dove right in, getting involved in the summer theatre camp at Bevill State Community College, playing roles in Jasper Community Theater’s performance of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and dancing in Athletic Arts Center’s “The Nutcracker.” Our entire family had a blast taking part in those events together, and it allowed us to make memories together that we will carry with us for a lifetime.

Three of our children are performing in “The Little Mermaid,” which is another production of Athletic Arts Center, set for Friday evening at Maddox Middle School. The show will start at 7 p.m. and tickets will be available at the door. There are approximately 30 local children participating in the stage performance. I would urge anyone in our community to come out and support the show.

Some news coming out of Washington, D.C., concerns me as it relates to the arts. Increases in funding in some areas could mean less funding for the arts, specifically funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. While those cuts may not necessarily affect us locally, some of the attitude toward the arts or perceived lack of importance of arts could affect how citizens’ views the arts here at home.

Americans for the Arts released a list of reasons in 2014 why we should support the arts. For the entire list, visit americansforthearts.org, but I’ll share a few:

•Arts promote true prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us – fostering creativity, goodness and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.

•Arts improve academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores and lower dropout rates – benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with four years of art or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with just one-half year of arts and music.

•Arts spark creativity and innovation. Creativity is among the Top 5 applied skills sought by business leaders.

•Arts have social impact. Researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare and lower poverty rates. A vibrant arts community ensures that young people are not left to be raised solely in a pop culture and tabloid marketplace.

The arts positively affect most aspects of our society, including strengthening the economy to driving tourism to even improving our health and wellness. Those are benefits that should not be ignored. Those benefits should be celebrated.

The little play this Friday night will bring together families and friends from all across our county. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and more will travel from out of town to watch these children perform. While they are here, they will probably eat in Jasper, may fill their car up with gas and possibly even shop a little. Even a small performance offers benefits to our community.

James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.