By Ashley O'Connor
For The Diamondback
In light of the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities government agencies, a panel met with the University of Maryland's arts and humanities college to discuss the agencies' status and their place in the future.
Jane Chu, the 11th chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and William Adams, the 10th chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, joined Bonnie Thornton Dill, the arts and humanities dean, for the discussion Tuesday evening at the Gildenhorn Recital Hall in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.
"We want all Americans to have an opportunity to be involved in the arts," Chu said.
Sheri Parks, the college's associate dean for research, interdisciplinary scholarship and programming, moderated the conversation in front of about 40 people.
Parks asked the panelists how they believe the arts and humanities can be better integrated in today's society, in which the arts are commonly cut out of school budgets. Entering her current position,Dill said, she had to explain the value it has for students, families and future generations.
Chu said a major problem in declining arts education programs is a lack of participation.
"Eleven million Americans want to participate in the arts, but don't," she said.
Many people who have mobility difficulties could have trouble getting to arts and humanities centers, or feel there are challenges to bringing kids to access the arts, but these barriers can be broken down, Chu said. She mentioned she would like to see arts programs implemented in all public schools.
It's important to show that art education not only provides a skill set, but can also be correlated with better performance in other classes, Chu said. For example, she said, a recent study revealed a correlation between art classes and higher grades in science classes.
"The pipeline is about making kids able to think wisely and be creative, not necessarily like the arts," Chu said.
Dill proposed a program that combines arts and sciences to help people understand the importance of the arts in other fields of study.
Chu and Adams also discussed becoming involved with the arts. Chu said she started playing piano largely after one of her parents died.
"It was music that soothed me," she said.
Adams mentioned the idea that education is for the entire person and not just certain parts.
"I never stopped being thankful for that deep, deep liberal education," he said.
Adams also spoke of the philosophical guidance he received in college after coming back from serving in the Vietnam War. He stressed that a humanities education can help anyone understand concepts like war and how it can shape a person. He said he is proud of the work NEH does to fund military historians and engage in discussions about war.
The discussion came to an end with a Q-and-A session in which one audience member asked about how to implement programs that allow teachers to combine art with a non-art curriculum.
Chu said educators can bring in artists to teach a portion of classes, which would ultimately expand the knowledge of both the teacher and the students.
Women's studies professor Ashwini Tambe, an NEH grant recipient, said she attended to show support for the panelists and NEH. She said she was curious about what the panelists had to say.
"Their optimism is what surprised me," Tambe said.
Tambe said she appreciated the speakers' emphasis on the importance of expressing arts and humanities' value to the public.