I know nothing about dance. I am a fan. I am a fan of dance and of Jacob’s Pillow and a fan of people who know nothing about dance going to see dance.
As a person who understands more about news and politics and war and peace than I do about dance, when I think about arts being important in the country, I think it’s sometimes interesting to consider what else was going on in the world when people were making the big, brave, bold decisions about the art that brought us the institutions that we’ve still got today, like Jacob’s Pillow…
Sometimes we choose to serve our country in uniform, in war. Sometimes in elected office. And those are the ways of serving our country that I think we are trained to easily call heroic. It’s also a service to your country, I think, to teach poetry in the prisons, to be an incredibly dedicated student of dance, to fight for funding music and arts education in the schools.
A country without an expectation of minimal artistic literacy, without a basic structure by which the artists among us can be awakened and given the choice of following their talents and a way to get to be great at what they do, is a country that is not actually as great as it could be. And a country without the capacity to nurture artistic greatness is not being a great country. It is a service to our country, and sometimes it is heroic service to our country, to fight for the United States of America to have the capacity to nurture artistic greatness…
I think there’s a great speech to be made, I think there are bumper stickers to be written, I think there’s a little patriotic chest-pounding that can be done, about what value arts are to a country. Not in terms of their propaganda, but in terms of the arts as a sign of national greatness, that a great country nurtures great artists. And that the greatness of a country is measured in part by its freedom, and artistic freedom is one of the measures by which a country shows its greatness.
Jacob’s Pillow, August 8, 2009