Former Washington poet laureate Tod Marshall cast a wide net in seeking comment about the importance of arts and humanities in politics and governance. Here is what people had to say.
Q. Is it important for an elected official to have an interest in art, literature, philosophy, and history? Why?
In a long sentence, I would say that while I do not consider that it is important for an elected official to have a direct interest in the arts and history, it is extremely important that an elected official have the knowledge and appreciation that their constituency does. Normally, with an expectation of support.
Mike Fagan, Spokane City Council
Art, literature, philosophy and history, what I think of as the humanities, enrich all of our lives and lead us to think more deeply and thoughtfully about the world around us. The humanities help shape our world view; they help us see things from different perspectives, and I believe that it is important that our elected officials have an appreciation and interest in these fields.
Wesley Jessup, director of the Northwest Museum of Art and Culture
I have a great appreciation for the arts and have been honored to feature local artists in my Olympia office for many years. Artists are our historians. With the written word, paint brush, or song they can bridge time, differences in opinions and cultures.
Jacquelin Maycumber, state representative, 5th legislative district
I believe elected officials should have an interest in art, literature, philosophy, and history. One of my goals as a legislator is to help Spokane and all of Washington state to be a prosperous and enjoyable place to live, work and play, and the arts are a key piece to this achieving this goal. Literature, philosophy and history are important in helping to formulate effective policy because there are so many lessons to be learned from scholars, writers, philosophers and historians. I draw on inspiration and lessons from arts, literature, philosophy and history every day in my work on behalf of the people of Spokane.
Andy Billig, senator, 3rd Legislative District
Yes. I believe it is of critical importance that elected officials have an interest in these subject matters regardless of political party affiliation. Elected officials shape and create systems, policy and law, which in turn impact our lives and those of our families and future generations. Having a working knowledge of history and philosophy provides an understanding of the times in our nation’s and world’s histories humanity ended up in a dark place and the theories, beliefs and perspectives that took us there so that we don’t repeat history. The arts and literature are the common ground that bring us together in appreciation of the beauty and wonder of life and remind us all that we must work together on shaping and creating systems, policies, and laws that build a country and a world we would want to leave behind for future generations.
Gloria Ochoa-Bruck, Spokane attorney
It is important to help preserve family values, quality of life, and to be a leader in allowing others to experience things they may not otherwise. In Colville, a thriving arts community is I feel in demand as we are getting more retiring people here as well as younger persons moving back to raise a family. In Colville, we have the Robert C. Vinson Bequeath earmarked for this. We have been able to get bronze statues by well-known artists, chain saw carvings, an array of arts and entertainment much of which is nontraditional but very beneficial. It also helps bring persons into the community helping with economic growth and sale of services.
Louis Janke, mayor, city of Colville
Art in all forms within a community differentiates a community from others surrounding it. Quality of life in Spokane goes far beyond providing good schools and public safety. In a larger sense Spokane stands out because of the multiple artistic venues it provides. The Spokane Symphony. The Museum of Arts and Culture. Spokane Civic Theater. Kirtland Cutter architecture. Mobius Children’s Museum. Art continues to provide an intersect for community interests. The Duncan Gardens at Manito Park. The Davenport Hotel. All give Spokane a sense of identity. And the most talked about memory of visitors to Spokane under the age of 6 – is the big red wagon in Riverfront Park. Art is a large part of forming a community identity, and because of it, directly affects the quality of life available.
Jeff Holy, state representative, 6th Legislative District
Yes, it’s important for elected officials to have an interest in the arts, literature, philosophy, history; these are the cornerstones to our past, present, and future. Our nation was built on creativity and the ability to analyze and build on past ideas. As a citizen and the Young People’s Librarian, I understand that elected officials that do not have these interests are unlikely to support these interests in public education, and I feel strongly that our young people deserve that education.
Elizabeth George, librarian, Walla Walla
I believe that the humanities are essential to the mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of a person. Learning to love these things means being exposed to them. It means finding value in them. Perhaps the only thing I can say I truly hate (besides hate itself) is what I call “willful stupidity” – people who are proud to be ignorant. The old philosophers said that self-awareness and learning were what separated us from the animals. I know some animals more self-aware than people. Look at the people who are well-rounded in their education, in their exposure to the arts, humanities, history, science, and you are going to find people who not only have logic and understanding at their core, but you are going to find people who SHARE that with others – and support the humanities any way they can.
Tara Leininger, mayor, Metaline Falls, pastor, Congregational United Church of Christ
I think it is important for elected officials to have an interest in art, literature, philosophy, and history (and music and nature – from a creativity/relaxation stand point) because any “community” is made up of an eclectic mix of people. Not having at least some interest in everything does not allow a public servant to appreciate and respect all constituents. Culture is a key component to diversity, and without diversity you have no community. Appreciating and respecting other’s joys and points of views allows elected officials to better serve the entire community.
Todd Vanek, mayor of Colfax
The arts, literature, philosophy, and history define what kind of people we are. Each society is unique. To understand the people, an elected official needs to have an understanding of these disciplines.
I am a musician, painter, and history buff and I appreciate the uniqueness of local culture.
Loni Simone, council member, Republic
I do think that it is important for an elected official to have other interests than politics. An interest in art, literature, philosophy and history help a person to be well rounded and deep rather than shallow minded. I have many interests myself that I try to carve out time for; I love to quilt and quilting is certainly an art! Unfortunately, I don’t have as much time to read as I did twenty years ago and my eyes don’t handle the printed word as well as they once did. Regardless of these setbacks, I still find time to study nutrition and health; something of great interest to me. Further, I believe that knowing our history, true history regardless of how painful it might be, is critical to being a wise nation. We must learn from our mistakes and our history tells us what those are.
Rachel Siracuse, council member, Republic
Elected officials should have a strong background and interest in history and philosophy because without those you are rudderless. Acting with no moral compass. Elected officials should care and support arts and culture because without them communities have no soul. A community with no soul is a dead community. Spokane is on the upswing because of our strong arts community and how it brings us all together and makes us collectively stronger.
Ben Stuckart, Spokane City Council president
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