I am a poet/wife/mother and have participated in arts outreach for many years. The outreach work has been life-changing and healing for me and hopefully for the people I have served. DAF Louisiana Division of the Arts grants have been the primary funding source for these programs.
Festival of Words directed by Patrice Melnick, and funded by a DAF Louisiana Division of the Arts grant, addressed community needs in Sunset and Grand Coteau. As one of the contributing artists, I presented a storytelling workshop to economically-challenged elderly and an in-school poetry reading to students. The response was overwhelming. The aims were met with great success. Something very important, motivating and transformative occurred through our endeavors.
Recently, I served as lead writer for the Acting Up in Acadiana‘s “Play. Music. Heal.”—a theatrical piece where actors, musicians and writers are exploring the notion that music has the potential to heal across socio-economic and cultural lines. This project received funding from DAF Louisiana Division of the Arts grant. Part of our discovery has been that art; music specifically, has the power to heal the psyche, raise self-perception, bring communities together and lift us to our greatest selves.
The human creates to survive. If we stifle creativity our culture withers. If we do not cry out at this time, we may be on an irreversible path. The effects to our state if the severe cuts to arts funding that Governor Jindal proposes go through could be devastating culturally and economically.
We are an ingenious people—we “make do.” But when you “gut” the arts, specifically programs that serve at-risk communities, you are cutting not only jobs of the artists, administrators and staff but you are cutting off people from people. Cultural tourism is the second highest industry in Louisiana. I would guess the industry employs thousands, or more, people.
The arts provide personal empowerment. Teaching-artists offer the tools to self-express creatively in theatre arts, music, dance, literature, visual and conceptual art, folk art, and so on. With these cuts, the individuals and communities who are in the most need may be the first and most devastated victims.
Art is a lifeline. We learn who we are through creative expression and by witnessing it. Through art we become more than ourselves. I am resolved to fight for my life as an artist and for the hope of new creators in Louisiana.