Music, dance, dramatic arts, visual arts; they are the bridges to the world and the window to our souls. The Arts reflect our humanity and our struggles. The Arts celebrate our highs and mourn our lows. The Arts tell our stories; historical and contemporary. The arts give life colour, depth, and meaning. Long after we have gone and future generations explore what we've left them, they may be amazed by our technical prowess, but they'll moved by our artistic contributions.
We make meaning through the Arts. We open ourselves to scorn, ridicule, praise, and encouragement through the Arts. We lay ourselves bare through the Arts. More important than any industrial process or financial transaction, the Arts let us show the world who we are, what we believe, what we tell each other. The Arts are anger and violence, joy and peace, meaningful reflection, humour and sadness, writ large. We are, Our Arts.
I grew up in a musical family. My mother trained for years as an opera-singer and as a girl, played the trumpet. My aunt played the clarinet. My brother and I grew up playing the piano, trumpet, trombone, ukulele, violin, guitar, and most recently for me, the mandolin. Our houses are still filled with music - ours' or others'. Our daughter is a ballet-dancer, currently at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. Our nephew is an accomplished vocalist and actor. When the Arts suffer a cut, we suffer a cut.
We know that arts funding is fragile. We know that in an ever-competitive economy the ability to turn a profit wins the day. But what of those things that that are precious, life-affirming, and beautiful? What of those things that sometimes - oftentimes - need to exist because they need to exist. They need to exist not to turn a profit. They need to exist because they simply need to exist.
Red Deer College has decided that precious, life-affirming, and beautiful is unimportant; that they don't need to exist. The College "leadership" has told the Arts community that they have no value. The College "leadership" has told society that the Arts are only important if they turn a profit.
Enrollment in the music program may very well have been low. The solution is not to decide that people don't want to be musicians and creators. The solution is to figure out how to get more people to study at this incredible facility, with these incredible artists, mentors, teachers, and creators.
Was there any creative problem-solving? Was there any license given to the faculty to allow them to brainstorm new ways to attract students or to create paths to viable music careers? Or, is it as it appears on the surface? Did the College take a short-sighted approach and simply cut? Rather than invest in the music program - as they have in rapid-prototyping, engineering, design, etc - did they simply look at low enrollment and decide "people don't want to be musicians"?
People want to be musicians. They want to be actors, and painters, and sculptors, and writers, and directors, and conductors, and singers, and set-designers and and and... and all of those professions that need protecting because creating and fostering artists doesn't necessarily turn a financial profit. The College's role is not to say that "It's too expensive to train a few musicians every year". It's the role of places of learning to take those who want to create and to help them grow and develop the skills they need to stand on the merits of their work and be supported by the community for their work.
We need the artists. We need the Arts. Without them we are monkeys who can do tricks with technology. With them, we are human.