Sunday, August 02, 2009

First Ladies lend muscle to arts support

America's First Ladies are charged with promoting the boring stuff: Arts, culture, education and gardening -- to name a few.

It was Hillary, not Bill, who attended D.C.'s arts events in the nineties. When I was in D.C. from 1993-95, Hillary presided over the NEA's annual National Heritage Fellowship awards and almost all other arts and humanities awards ceremonies. She attended concerts and plays and ballet performances. Sometimes Bill tagged along.

Laura Bush, a librarian and book-lover, worked with the Library of Congress to launch the annual National Book Festival on the National Mall. The next one is scheduled for Sept. 26 and features one of our own, mystery writer Craig Johnson.

Laura's husband, Pres. George W. Bush, is known to have read at least one book.

Michelle Obama takes her role seriously as Arts Educator in Chief. When designers across the U.S. came to D.C. for the annual National Design Awards, Ms. Obama dispatched them to five museums to conduct free public lectures. So these designers headed off to museums: Bill Moggridge, designer of the world's first laptop; Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa; Calvin Tsao and Zack McCown, both interior designers. They spoke about cothes designs, architecture, sustainable neighborhoods, engineering and jobs. Later they returned to the White House for lunch.

Here are some quotes from Ms. Obama's speech, as reported by AP:

"An educational foundation is only part of the equation. In order for creativity to flourish and imagination to take hold, we also need to expose our children to the arts from a very young age."

She said Albert Einstein had it right when he said imagination is more important than knowledge. "We need to ensure that our children have both — knowledge and imagination. I know I want that for my girls. They deserve to have access to a good education and access to ideas and images that will spark their creativity."

She also spoke of her efforts "to break down barriers that too often exist between major cultural establishments and the people in their immediate communities."

"So we've been sending a lot of role models out there in the far reaches of this city and then inviting kids to come back here to the White House. That's been a big part of the messages of every single event that we've done here at the White House. These kids who are living just inches away from power and prestige and fortune and fame, we want those kids to know that they belong here, too ... and in the museums, and in libraries, and laboratories all over this country."

"What I love about design is the artistic and scientific complexity that also becomes useful: A laptop, a bridge, an outfit, a garden. All drawn from a thousand wells of inspiration and yet grounded in the basic principles of math or science."

Knowledge combined with imagination will lead us out of the crises posed by global warming and endless war. Well, maybe not the latter. But engineers and designers will design fuel-efficient buildings and cars and aircraft. Our local library received 2008 National Library of the Year honors for its role as a great library with helpful, knowledgeable staff. Also, its LEEDS-certified and the landscaping consists of native, low-water plants. We have a new library in Pinedale made of rammed earth and a library addition in Lander that uses alternative energy including geothermal. Those huge windmills going up east of Cheyenne are a marvel of engineering and design. I'm still waiting for a small rotary windmill for my roof. Maybe I should say an affordable rotary wind generator.

Too bad those First Ladies take care of the boring stuff. That's also true on thje state level. Governor Dave Freudenthal is a lawyer and former prosecutor who also refurbishes old sheep wagons. His name is on the proclamations for the annual Governor's Arts Awards. But he always credits his attorney wife Nancy with having the artsitic taste in the family. She appears regularly at arts and humanities events. She also was the catalyst behind the state's first Arts Summit in 2007.

Roberta "Bobby" Hathaway pushed her husband, Gov. Stan Hathaway, to establish the Wyoming Arts Council in 1967. She was on the first board. Sherri Geringer, wife of Gov. Jim Geringer, wrote the intro for the WAC's 30th anniversary publication, "Portrait of the Arts in Wyoming."

These are smart and powerful women. Hillary Clinton came within a gnat's eyelash of being the Democratic Part's presidential nominee. Wyomingites talk about a possible gubernatorial run by Nancy Freudenthal. Her husband's two terms expire next year and Gov Dave is being coy about seeking a third term.

So, when Michelle and Laura and Hillary take on a project, it will get done. And stay done.

1 comment:

FTL said...

ART, n. This word has no definition. Its origin is related as follows by
the ingenious Father Gassalasca Jape, S.J.

One day a wag -- what would the wretch be at? --
Shifted a letter of the cipher RAT,
And said it was a god's name! Straight arose
Fantastic priests and postulants (with shows,
And mysteries, and mummeries, and hymns,
And disputations dire that lamed their limbs)
To serve his temple and maintain the fires,
Expound the law, manipulate the wires.
Amazed, the populace that rites attend,
Believe whate'er they cannot comprehend,
And, inly edified to learn that two
Half-hairs joined so and so (as Art can do)
Have sweeter values and a grace more fit
Than Nature's hairs that never have been split,
Bring cates and wines for sacrificial feasts,
And sell their garments to support the priests.

ARTLESSNESS, n. A certain engaging quality to which women attain by
long study and severe practice upon the admiring male, who is pleased
to fancy it resembles the candid simplicity of his young.

- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary