MinterTom  Apr.29.2011 0 Comments

A little over a month ago, the Washington National Opera company announced its merger with the Kennedy Center. For the 2011 Fall season, and beyond, the company will be considered part of the family, and have permanent residence in the quadrant of spaces which includes housing for the National Symphony, presentation residency of the National Ballet, Millennium Stage, and adjacent theater spaces, used for Jazz, visual arts, and other touring production companies of plays and musicals. At the time of discussions, I would suspect that this all looked pretty reasonable on paper. But having done the deed, in the short period of time after the announcement of the merger, Congress wielded its ax, and a limb of funding was hacked from the trunk of the Kennedy Center -a substantive one- sending that institution into hot closed door sessions on how to staunch the wound, and suture its programming, so that it remains relevant, available, and representative of a National Arts edifice. Unfortunately, bloodied, value debased, programs extinguishing, community outreach opportunities loped off, and tossed onto the heap of newly insolvent partnerships- is representative of the nation’s, National Arts situation.. And in the swath of the nation’s unconscionable, fiscal collateral damage, as ever, are the most needy and underserved youth. The WNO, and its partnership schools, through a longstanding collaboration, created a unique arts enrichment program to support education curriculum requirements, and reached beyond the walls of the classroom into its partnership communities. WNO Education was recognized in the 2011 DC Mayor’s Arts Awards, as a finalist in the category of Outstanding Arts Education. This, just as budget eviscerations rended the ambitions of sustainability, in merger, and illuminated the consequences. The WNO/DC Public Schools Partnership, and other, various community outreach initiatives, rooted in the last few years of collaboration, are now, at the very least, beyond the reach of consistency, and will require deep compromises. And the feeling I’m left with, as a citizen, as an artist, and as a believer in arts enrichment and the necessity of making such experiences part of the fabric of childhood, every child’s childhood, is one of disbelief, and, frankly, shame; impotent embarrassment that education, of the astonishing weave of national arts treasure and legacy, is without the moral imperative of cultural consciousness, but seems to stand as a ‘foster child’, a perfect recipient of disingenuous lecturing, on trickle down knowledge, the astringent benefits of gruel, and other potbellied political expediencies.. I think I was squinting with this thought, yesterday, having just asked a class of 5th graders to take there places for the final sequence in the opera they'd created, called The Dragon, The Gorilla and The Lioness, Find the Three Mermaid Sister’ s Magic Pearls. I came back to being properly attentive as the class stood in the final tableaux. It looked wonderful, and the smile it brought to everyone in the room was instantaneous. …I was wishing everyone a good week, and collecting my things, as one of the Mermaid Sisters came up to me, and, with all the gravity of her 9 years of age, pinned me with a look of determination, and said.. Mister Minter, I can’t do this. She was serious; I didn’t smile. But I did ask ‘why’? Well we’re mermaids, Mister Minter. We can’t stand at the end. We don’t have legs. ..-and there was a reminder, of pure common sense!

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