As a child in the late 70’s I grew up with episodes of Schoolhouse Rock during Saturday morning cartoons. Even today I can hum the tune to “I’m Just a Bill”, one of my favorite Schoolhouse Rock films.
As we prepare for mid-term elections I am reminded of this first lesson in civics. I have art to thank for that lesson – the song and animation are both forms of art used to help educate children on civics.
And the more I think about it, the more I realize how important art is in democracy.
Art and Democracy
Art is complex, more than an expression of beauty, art is a fundamental element of human society and a means by which we have expressed and shared ideas for ages. Art is a meaningful form of communication, both personal and public, and as such it is an important medium for democracy
“Art called up a sense of humanity to deepen understanding around persistent social issues of race, economic inequity and identity”
~ from INROADS: The Intersection of Art & Civic Dialogue
On this election eve I want to share 3 ways in which art is important to democracy:
- Awareness – Art can help to raise public consciousness, illuminate issues and provide us with a way to see, feel or understand the human condition. Art can help us to become more informed and increase our awareness and understanding of complex issues. Creating well informed citizens is important to democracy as it is the citizens who through voting make decisions and shape government.
- Voice – Art gives a voice to those who are often overlooked or silenced, providing a medium to share ideas and experiences. Art raises voices that may otherwise go unheard. In a democracy all citizens are equal under the law and afforded basic human rights. As a citizen having knowledge of the conditions, challenges and concerns of your fellow citizens is important.
- Participation – Art can anger or inspire us, touching us in a way that calls us to action. Art can also be used to bring people together, including those with differing points of view, allowing us to engage in civic dialogue and better understand differing perspectives. Democracy requires public participation and art can be an effective tool to encourage dialogue and civic engagement.