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Lesson Plans

Re: Mannheimer attack

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Marge Dickinson (dickinsonm)
Thu, 8 Aug 1996 09:06:12 -0500

Dear Ken -
In response to your post below I have several areas I would like to pass on:
The comment by mannheimer about no one paying attention to the arts is
wrong. Write to the Illinois Arts Alliance at 200 North Michigan Avenue,
Suite 404, Chicago IL 60601 and ask for their brochure: The Arts Help
Illinois Taxpayers (and on the reverse side: Arts Jobs Work for Illinois).
Based on studies done in 1995 (Arts Jobs and Economic of the Not-for-Profit
Arts INdustry in Illinois ) It's free but you might send them a small
donation. Memberships are only $35 in IL. The brochure states: "105,165
Illinois jobs are arts-related, $5.8 million in personal income tax
revenues," "over a billion dollars a year in economic activity is
generated by the non-profit arts and museums of illinois". They also list
attendance figures, etc. There is also a study done at Northwestern U.
which shows similar impact - especially on larger attendance figures at
arts events as opposed to sporting events. Mannheimer may be right that we
aren't getting our message out but we should.

If you don't mind a personal example: In 1989 I was disappointed by the
work done by an arts council which said it was covered a whole county here
in western rural Illinois. I started, from scratch, a Galva Arts Council -
which now has over 125 family membership, and a board of 12. and is a
catalyst for the rejuvenation of the town. For the first time the
Chamber of Commerce, the City of Galva and the Arts Council are bringing to
Galva the Artrain which is full of some wonderful work from the Smithsonian
Institution. The whole town is already at work on this event which comes
to Galva (the only Illinois town it will visit) in Sept of 97. The GAC
also has artists residencies, classes, a monthly open-mike coffeehouse,
photo shows, art shows - and when arts were threatened in the schools, we
rose up as a body and protested and saved jobs. We have art and music for
every child at least once a week from K-8 - and a required for graduation
(for non-art majors) multi-discipline art class at the high school. We are
not elitist, we believe every child should have art - we start writing
about art, discussing art early - and serious writing in the fourth grade
and on up. I think that this kind of work has to be done before the arts
are threatened. I don't mean to make it sound like I have done this alone
- all I did was get it started - and then, as a friend of mine says - it
was like skiing in front of an avalanche. This town only has 3,000 people.

My point is that we all have to be more proactive and not reactive. If you
haven't built a strong base of parents, or townspeople, or business or
whatever, when you are threatened you have no where to go.

I thought it was interesting- the part about my comments in mannheimers
column. I got a nice note from the Dean of the art school defending his
school but a scorching email message which really reamed me out about being
unfair to his school. He's right of course; he can't be blamed for
mannheimers comments . But I still wonder where mannheimer thinks his
students are coming from if he shoots down teachers.


>I thought that some of you on the list would like to see an update on the
>Mannheimer article attacking art in the elementary school. His letter was
>in response to the superintendent of IPS schools recommending that 125 art
>and PE teachers be cut from her school system. Several of our letters from
>the list group have been printed in the Letters to the Editor in the
>Indianapolis paper.
>In today's Indianapolis News, they say that "many have speculated for weeks
>that Zendejas (superintendent of IPS) might consider quitting after the
>rejections of her recent proposals to cut more than 100 art and physical
>education positions to stem a budget crunch". She is indeed talking of
>This points to a victory. I don't know how much people on the list had in
>helping the backlash against her, but I'm sure it didn't hurt.
>It's not as positive with the art professor at Herron School of Art, Steve
>Mannheimer, however. He printed up another article this past Sunday in the
>Star. Below are portions of his rediculous letter:
>"Two weeks ago, I wrote a column about Indianapolis Public Schools
>Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas' erstwhile proposal to eliminate 125
>physical education and art teachers from the ranks of IPS."
>"Perhaps contrary to some expectations, the column did not decry the idea.
>Instead, it suggested that if IPS needed to cut costs somewhere, art should
>be sacrificed before reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. (I wouldn't touch
>athletics with a 10-word metaphor.)"
>"Such budgetary cuts would hardly affect the smooth operation of the art
>world at large, the column continued. Nor would they likely upset its
>mostely upscale inhavitants or institutions."
>"My editor warned that the column was going to upset lots of folks. Get
>ready for the firestorm, she advised."
>"Five letters have arrived: one pro, four con. Not exactly a fire-storm-
>but not without some heat."
>"The four protesters were united by their displeasure at my arrogance, to
>use a recurring word, and a general desire to see me fired from any jobs I
>might hold. Myra D. Mason, director of the Diversity Resource Office at
>Purdue University, wrote, 'the tone that your article communicated to me
>was superiority and smuggness. These attitudes are reasons for our
>continuing racial problems.'"
>"Other protesting correspondents alluded to the non-aesthetic benefits of
>art education. After suggesting that real art professionals and their
>schools would never espouse such attitudes, Marge Dickinson, and
>educational consultant from Galva, IL., wrote, 'Free speech
>notwithstanding, the man is biting the hand of all the people who send him
>students- and don't think it isn't all over the art chat lines and the
>"An old newsroom formula equates each letter received with 199 never sent.
>In this case, that would mean 800 unhappy readers versus 200 happy."
>"On Sundays, when my column appears, The Star sells approximately 400,000
>papers, each read by approximately three readers. Does this mean 1,199,000
>readers scanned the column's headline and turned the page?"
>"Hard to say, but compare five responses with the leterally hundreds of
>letters The Star received regarding class basketball. Why?"
>"Yet, we in the art world seem to be constantly complaining that American
>society doesn't care enough- and that all we need is a little more support,
>some slightly more broader forums to convince America that art is crucial
>to a full life"
>"If you've read this far, you are probably convinced, as am I afer nearly
>40 years of making, teaching, looking and writing about art. But the rest
>of the country obviously isn't."
>"After exposing two generations to this systematic support, when should we
>ask if our message isn't getting through because of the systems themselves?
>Maybe its time we went about things in a different manner- or faced the
>fact that what we're pitching can't compete with television, computers,
>movies, even jogging trails and vacations, and all the other venues of
>visual experience to be found in the world."
>A few thoughts as I read his letter... He assumes that 1,199,000 readers
>ignored his article because it was about the arts and not because he is a
>poor writer. The "system" as he calls it is made of people like Mannheimer.
>If any of you would like to add to his list of "cons", feel free to e-mail
>a letter of protest to:
> \ *** /---------------/---------------------/--------
> \ * * / Ken Rohrer / kenroar / o |
> * _ _ *~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ o |o |
> * {O} {O} * oo\ o/ |
>* * The Incredible Art Department \ |/ |
>* \__/ * |
>* _ _ * |
> * \_________/ *----------------------------------------------
> * ----- *
> / * * \
> / *** \
>/ | \

Marge Dickinson
Galva, IL
e-mail: dickinsonm
phone: 309-932-2880
fax: 309-932-8207