“A profoundly important and timely compilation. This book illustrates the ways in which the arts are urgent—from meeting societal needs, strengthening our communities, and benefiting individual lives, to engaging the sciences and relaying our histories to each other—while reinforcing the value of all of the arts.”
Agnes Gund, President Emerita, Museum of Modern Art
In conversation with contributing writers Jeffrey Brown, chief correspondent for arts, culture, and society at PBS NewsHour and Cristal Truscott, playwright, director, scholar, culture worker, facilitator, and founder of Progress Theatre.
In the midst of a devastating pandemic, as theaters, art galleries and museums, dance stages, and concert halls shuttered their doors indefinitely and institutional funding for entertainment and culture evaporated almost overnight, a cohort of highly acclaimed scholars, artists, cultural critics, and a journalist sat down to ponder an urgent question: Are the arts essential?
Across twenty-five engaging essays, these luminaries join together to address this question and to share their ideas, experiences, and ambitions for the arts. Drawing on their experiences across the spectrum of the arts, from the performing and visual arts to poetry and literature, the contributors remind readers that the arts are everywhere and, in one important way after another, they question, charge, and change us. These impassioned essays remind us of the human connections the arts can forge—how we find each other through the arts, across the most difficult divides, and how the arts can offer hope in the most challenging times.
What answer does this convocation offer to Are the Arts Essential? A resounding Yes.
Alberta Arthurs is a Senior Fellow of the John Brademas Center of New York University. As a consultant and commentator, she is active in culture, philanthropy, and higher education. She was the long-time Director for Arts and Humanities at the Rockefeller Foundation, and earlier served as President of Chatham College. She has written and published extensively, including as co-editor of Crossroads: Arts and Religion in American Life.
“Here is the book arts lovers and advocates have been waiting for—and just in the nick of time! This collection of inspiring, practical, and visionary essays shows how the arts can lead our nation’s spiritual and economic revival and point the way towards a more just future.”