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Score one for the dreamers and think before you slash those art budgets

“You may say I’m a dreamer/But I’m not the only one/I hope someday you’ll join us/And the world will be as one.” – John Lennon: Imagine (1971)

Artists are dreamers. They envision, they create, they push boundaries, they inspire, they challenge, they defy, they express, they interpret — and most importantly they imagine, and the work they produce allows us to imagine. They’re the people who push us to experience life in a visceral way. They help us feel life from deep within.

That’s why we need them.

When paired with their more pragmatic siblings (engineers, scientists, accountants, computer whizzes) — or the world’s doers — civilization advances at an exponential rate. You have a magnificent sum: the dreamer and the doer colliding. Knowledge economy meets idea economy.

Contrast that with a world of just doers. No imagining. No dreaming. No pushing the boundaries or “thinking outside the box,” so to speak.

It’s an efficient world; it’s a world full of well-executed, on-budget projects. Some are different, but many are the same. Progress slows.

That might be a smidge of hyperbole,given that there are a number of people with a dreamer-doer mix. But it illustrates what happens when we blithely make cuts to arts programs, like the ones at Mount Royal University or the rumoured cuts to the U of A arts faculty, thinking that its end product is just another starving artist and not another “productive” member of society.

It’s cutting half of the aforementioned magnificent sum, or a portion thereof, because it doesn’t produce instant and tangible results.

This is the message the provincial government has sent to schools — gear your students and programs to be of economic benefit. Cue the predictable arts cuts. They are the easiest ones to make, right?

Oh, how shortsighted.

Yes, short-term makes the bean counters happy. Yes, it could push more people into the doer scholastic streams — maybe giving a short-term bump in the economy or to productivity. But the question is, how long can it be sustained?

Dreamers conceptualize and design things, while doers construct them and take them to market: everything from structures, music, books, and movies to homes and home interiors, cars, clothes and cellphones.

Artists imagine the impossible and doers make it a reality. It’s a partnership, not a mutually exclusive proposition.

One can only hope our government and our schools eventually see it that way.

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