When we look across the globe or back in history, even thousands of years, we are "seen" as a people by how we express ourselves in our arts. Our arts are not "separate from who we are." Whereas religion or philosophy may state our aspirations, it is art that often provides us with deep connections to those aspirations; the arts can express our self-identity.
A great city nourishes artistic expression in city planning, architecture, education, events, and the experiences we gain from moving through the city.
Exploration of the arts is like the exploration of science; we do it partly out of awe and appreciation for our presence here. It is not a "cost" or an expense. Rather, the arts are part of our journey.
Adequate funding for the arts is the result of understanding the role of the arts in our lives. If we do not comprehend the role of art in our world, but rather regard it as an expense, we will never have appropriate levels of support. National initiatives, such as No Child Left Behind, that treat test scores as the only important measure of an education miss the point. Education is not just what children learn or how much they learn, but also the journey of learning. If children do not grow to love learning, test scores will be a poor measure of what is needed for a high quality of life.
Not irrelevant to this discussion is the research that has shown that involvement in the arts can increase academic performance. Challenging the creative part of the brain results in stimulation of the logical part of the brain. (Is it a coincidence that some of our greatest scientists and leaders were also avid artists?)
Our program to support the arts in Portland is as follows:
The Mayor's office will work with the Portland School Board, the presidents of the local colleges, local art associations and leaders, to develop an arts enhancement program from kindergarten through college. We will establish mentoring and tutoring programs where older students, artists, and members of the community will come into the schools, perhaps in time slots after school until 5:30, to support art education and expression.
City planners will work with architects and artists to ensure that the city supports its aesthetic best while growing and expanding. Locations in new developments will be set aside specifically for artistic expression as part of the city approval process.
Artistic and cultural education, expression, and events will be imbedded in the new community centers that will be developed for each neighborhood. (The community centers are part of a self-funded program to be set up under my Five Bold Steps into the Future program.) The city will support and help promote neighborhood level artistic and cultural events as well as "city-wide" events of the past.
We will establish an artistic Council of Elders to advise the mayor's office on the frequency and types of events that should be scheduled each year. The mayor's office will work to meet the standards established by the Council of Elders. City-wide events will be supported by the city through promotion and possibly seed funding, but most such events will need to be self-funded or even profitable to ensure continuing funding for years to come. The artistic Council of Elders will develop a five-year plan for city events that will be open for public comment and revision each year.
Good health will be encouraged at city-wide or city-promoted events. This includes having some percent of concessions that sell foods high in nutrition and low in sugar and fat as an alternative to the high fat, low nutrition fare sometimes available. City-promoted events will also include areas that are drug-free; cigarettes and alcohol will not be sold or allowed within these areas. Families will be encouraged to attend most city events and, to the degree feasible, child-friendly areas will be established, as well as certified child-care services.
Electric-assisted three-wheel cycles will also be available for rent at a low price to support attendance by seniors and persons with disabling conditions; bike paths for electric-assisted cycles and bicycles will be carefully placed throughout the site of the event to keep walkers and bikers separate and safe. City-wide events should reach out to families, not just young adults.