Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Stop Consuming, Start Creating

The economic crisis has resulted in many Americans rethinking their spending habits. More people are spending less, using debit instead of credit cards, trying to save money any way they can. My hope is that people will now start to place more importance on the non-material things in life that are so valuable: creativity and the arts, recreation, home life, nature, social relationships, community. Becoming doers and makers rather than consumers.
I think the American people are way out in front of the politicians who are still seeing "credit" as the answer to solving this economic crisis. Well, the economists say that it's necessary for the govt. to help get us out of this mess. But hopefully Obama's leadership will inspire people to think beyond selfish consumerism, to turn an economic disaster into an opportunity for cultural, civic, and spritual renewal. This could be an important moment in history.

On a local level, I see the city of Allentown at a very opportune moment. While some long standing businesses are closing their doors due to the recession, new doors are opening. It's not the doom and gloom that many people perceive it to be. There is now the real possibility of an Arts Center on Hamilton St. There are plans for community arts events that would bring people together. Could we be seeing the death of the malls and the move to REAL downtowns, for some REAL culture, not the faux kind like The Promenade? Could there be a rebirth of the arts centered in our downtown? We have the institutions, and we have the artists, and we have a supportive city govt.

The arts can foster creative thinking in govt. and across the country, and renew the human spirit. It's about time that the importance of the role of the arts in society be valued and recognized. It is in European countries. Instead of cutting arts programs maybe we should start investing in them. Newark NJ is doing that. Quincy Jones has started a petition to ask President-Elect Obama to appoint a Secretary of the Arts.

Another important aspect of renewing America involves new uses for communications technology. Why can't this be more for educational and cultural purposes? These areas could benefit from "networking" and new technology. My son does not even have access to working computers in his 2nd grade classroom. I find that unacceptable in 2009. Students will need creative skills to make it in the techno-world. The arts and technology are connected in many ways. It's time to think about the "needs" of our society instead of the "wants."