| Jill Robinson,
President & CEO, TRG Arts
Like many of you, I watched coverage of the inauguration on Friday. It is a time like none of us have seen; regardless of political affiliation, we all hang in suspense about the specifics of our collective future. Many marched (good!), others wring hands and despair, and many in our country are sanguine, even pleased.
Luminaries in arts and culture have spoken on the implications of the Trump era for our country and our field in more articulate ways than I can. Yet, I am moved to write, inspired by our field’s response to our divisive political reality.
I’m inspired by initiatives like Arena Stage’s Power Plays, which in the next 10 years will develop 25 new plays and musicals exploring American stories of politics and power. I’m stirred by the cast of Hamilton’s thought-provoking demonstration. I talk daily to the leaders of arts and cultural organizations in this country, Canada, and the UK; I’m reminded of our role as a sector as I listen to their stories of the experiences they provide in their communities that create joy, learning, beauty, dialogue.
The arts bring people together. In today’s polarized global climate, that’s more important than ever.
Just one month ago, many organizations in the U.S. ended 2016 with their annual holiday productions, and many have reported record holiday sales. At TRG, we’re careful not to attribute correlation vs. causation without the data to back it up. But, isn’t it interesting? In one of the most politically divisive years in recent memory, so many people chose to be together—regardless of generation, race, or political affiliation. We came together to celebrate the holidays, family, love. That’s one reason that arts organizations exist. Yes, humans have an instinct to label themselves and divide themselves. Yet, we also have an instinct to find community—community that uplifts us and feeds our spirit. Some find it in a church pew. Some find it on a yoga mat. Some find it in a darkened theatre.
When we sit in that darkened theatre or walk through a well-lit gallery, it opens us to experiences different from our own—pasts and futures we’ll never experience in our lifetimes. It opens us to compassion. It opens us to dialogue, new ideas, and new understanding.
Artists act as a mirror to what is happening in society. Their role is needed now more than ever. Right now, it feels to me that their task is tremendous. As arts managers, we are their allies in creating experiences that transform people.
The magnitude of the battles ahead with arts funding and other issues are real. They are pressing.
Yet, our purpose has never been more clear. Let’s not despair. Let’s tell the stories. Let’s invest in the art and creativity that people need. Let’s get to work.