Wynton Marsalis Goes to Washington | Newsweek Periscope | Newsweek.com:
When someone who thinks about these issues as much as Marsalis does grows so profoundly affected by talking about them, it shows how utterly we fail at discussing culture in America. The champions of the arts speak of them today largely in functional terms: as businesses, or as subjects you teach because they'll make kids more employable. There's no doubt these arguments can be apt—last week in D.C., for example. The day after the speech, Americans for the Arts, the advocacy group that hosts the Hanks lecture, sent Marsalis and the singers Josh Groban and Linda Ronstadt to testify before Congress, and 500 activists to lobby their elected officials. Again and again, they described the arts as revenue- and jobgenerating dynamos. I saw one staffer's eyes widen when he was handed a map of all the arts organizations in his congressman's district.
Yet amid all the demands for better funding for the arts, hardly anybody addresses the graver shortfall, which is for better thinking about the arts. If more people joined Marsalis in calling for "a new American mythology," one that granted greater prominence to the arts because they "demand and deserve that we recognize the life we have lived on this land together," the appropriations would almost certainly follow.