Letters to the Editor

Arts Council

To the Editor:

No one can sing the praises of Amelia Barton and the Arts Council's Center for Arts Education enough ("Artrageous?," May 22nd issue). Barton and her staff built a program that people from all over the world came to see because it was a model of success for the children it served.

In such a highly competitive world, the schoolchildren of Memphis and Shelby County desperately need any advantage that a program such as the CAE can bring them, not to mention the opportunities it brought to teachers to expand their tools for teaching. Barton devoted years to building relationships with local artists, educators, school administrators, and national agencies because she knew how important that spark of interest in creating can be to children, especially disadvantaged children, in helping them build successful lives.

If the Memphis Arts Council is to truly serve Memphis, it must provide arts education to those most receptive to it and in need of it our children. As for Amelia Barton, Anne Davey, and Kay Ross, their next employers should count themselves lucky to have such dedicated, enthusiastic, and creative people on their staff.

Peggy McKnight, Coordinator

Vascular Biology Center of Excellence

UT Health Science Center, Memphis

To the Editor:

Without hearing the Greater Memphis Arts Council's perspective on what happened to the CAE, it is difficult to figure out what has happened. But where was the outcry when Mayor Wharton announced he was wiping out county funding for the arts? Where was your reporter when the city announced it was recommending a cut in GMAC's funds? This is an extraordinarily tough time to raise money, and all nonprofits are challenged to question not just the "how" of their operations but also the "what."

The nonprofit organizations GMAC raises money to support make up an irreplaceable part of this city's cultural ecosystem. They are the largest employers of artists in Memphis. They provide the space, the training, and the professional support for artists to practice their craft.

Your reporter quoted Crittenden Arts Council executive director Janine Earney as saying that "companies want to fund something worthwhile, that's making a difference, and that's having an impact on children." She goes on to ask, "Are you there for education or are you there just to fund other [not-for-profit] organizations?"

What a false choice she lays out. GMAC's funding for Ballet Memphis, the Memphis Symphony, Playhouse on the Square, and other organizations does fund education. Check out the theater classes for kids at Playhouse or its children's shows or its pay-what-you-can performances. Or visit Ballet Memphis studios where children learn ballet alongside the professionals, perform in The Nutcracker and even become members of the professional company.

As a long-ago member of the GMAC board, I would make the case with my colleagues that we sometimes approached the arts as if they were "good" for all those people with no options children, seniors, poor people. Any program that walked through the door with one of those labels received special handling. The rest of us were just fine without the arts.

That is so untrue. I rediscovered the thrill, the provocation, the beauty, the contemplation of the arts as an adult. Adults and children, rich people and poor people, young and old all need the arts. I hope those of us who care will all pull together to generate the money and attendance the arts need to thrive.

Carol Coletta


Chastises Branston

To the Editor:

For someone who has spent much of his professional time chastising others for failing to "get it right," I was surprised to see John Branston (City Beat, May 22nd issue) refer to the Hatikva as the Jewish national anthem. The Hatikva is no more the Jewish national anthem than the Star Spangled Banner is the Christian national anthem. The Hatikva is the national anthem of Israel a sovereign nation, I might add.

Susan Adler Thorp


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