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Let's Stand Up For Creativity in 2008 (and beyond)

To the Presidents and Deans of America's Arts, Theater, Design, Engineering, Science, and Journalism Schools: In one year we'll be asked to choose a President, 34 Senators, all 435 Congressmen, 11 governors, and thousands of state and local officials. Do you know of any candidate, at any level, that has a platform on creativity, the arts or innovation? Neither do I.

The reason is simple. We haven't made them. Politicians operate on a basic, almost feral level of stimulus-response. They look at an issue or interest group and ask "Can you help me or hurt me?" If you (meaning the arts and culture community) can do neither, then you are invisible and hence, powerless. Worse, you may become a political punching bag if another interest group that opposes you CAN help and or hurt elected representatives. This is what happened to America's cultural sector in the first round of Culture Wars in the early 1990's (which we thoroughly lost, by the way). So, if you want the arts, creativity and culture to be valued in the halls of Congress. If you want the values that drive you every day to create and explore and work in collaboration with your colleagues to be present in public life - then you need to stand up for creativity in a public way. I'm hoping that the institutions that train tomorrow's creative professionals and which have substantial resources for making and transmitting meaning will help lead the way here. I'm hoping that your school will produce instructional and public events in 2008 that will help raise the profile of creativity in the life of the nation and start to frame questions we can ask of candidates for significant public office - including the Presidency. After all, every interest group under the sun will be jostling for position and making demands on candidates to formulate and communicate position statements that speak to their concerns. So should we. 2008 could be the beginning of a long-term set of forums, training sessions, classes and - ultimately - endorsement sessions where artists, designers, scientists, cultural workers can raise the profile of creativity in America. We could form our own platforms and then locate and reward candidates who value creativity, the arts and freedom of expression. I know your school can't endorse candidates, but it can help us frame the questions we should be asking them. Tom Tresser Instructor, "The Art of Crossing the Street - The Artist as Citizen" School of the Art Institute of Chicago Class blog: