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Why Are We Ignoring the Mental Health Repercussions of Slashing Arts Funding?

Ashley Ramos

Jul 24, 2020

Beau Dunn, Money Trap, 2017, Mixed media, 36 x 57 x 27 inches (91.4 x 144.8 x 68.6 cm). Courtesy of the artist.For decades now, massive cuts to K-12 arts funding (1) have become the norm in education systems across America. Sparked by a long-standing emphasis on a science-focused education model and multiple economic recessions, the steady decline in funding for the arts has had profound effects on young people today and the arts community as a whole.

 As America enters what appears to be one of the largest recessions in modern history sparked by COVID-19, cuts to arts programs in the K-12 education system (2), and cuts to programs in direct support for artists and the art community will continue to increase at unprecedented rates.

New York City has already announced expected budget cuts for New York City Public Schools to total half a billion dollars and many arts programs are already considered bare bones at schools in New York City. Additionally, emergency COVID funds for the arts and artists who are already intimately impacted by economic downturns are popping up, but it may be too little too late.

As the art community prepares to deal with the economic realities of the impending financial recession, a more costly effect of these cuts is far-too-often left out of the conversation: art therapy.

Art therapy is founded on the belief that self-expression through artistic creation has therapeutic value for those who are healing or seeking deeper understanding of themselves and their personalities. According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapists are trained to understand the roles that color, texture, and various art media can play in the therapeutic process and how these tools can help reveal one’s thoughts, feelings, and psychological disposition.

 

 

 

 

 

The therapeutic and mental-health benefits of the arts are a life-line to countless people. Across America, COVID-19 has created immense uncertainty and fueled mental-health crises for many Americans. In fact, in a recent survey by the CDC, over a third of Americans report experiencing symptoms of clinical depression or anxiety amid the Coronavirus pandemic. A rise in mental health crises for Americans coupled with further cuts to the arts could be a recipe for further disaster.

 

The benefits of art therapy are endless for patients. The American Art Therapy Association has found that participation in art therapy has positive mental health outcomes, increases patient retention in trauma patients, can assist in preventing cognitive decline for elderly patients, and can decrease anxiety, stress, and mood disturbances.

 

While many of the benefits of art therapy remain unexplored, the increase in mental health issues caused by COVID-19, social isolation, and human loss should inspire psychological enthusiasts and art enthusiasts alike to invest in the arts as a way to promote critical health and wellness. It is long overdue that the mental, emotional, and physical health benefits of the arts and art therapy be made the centerpiece in the conversation about the importance of funding for the arts.

 

Despite the hardships that the art community has been facing amidst the pandemic, there are constructive initiatives that are being taken to further the public’s knowledge of the importance of the arts. Recently, on April 15th, UNESCO launched a global art movement called ResiliArt.

 

ResiliArt was created to illuminate the current state of the creative sector through virtual debate/discussion-based sessions given the worldwide recession caused by COVID-19. So far there have been 73 debates completed and 39 scheduled for the near future as well as 52 countries that have taken part in the initiative.

 

Aubrey Azoulay, UNESCO director-general, described that “in these unstable and uncertain times, we need to look to the things that unite us– the things that show us the world in all of its variations– and for that, we need artists.” This powerful movement is not only working to shed light on artists’ constraints and the financial consequences of the current health crisis. It is also pushing for important conversations that incorporate tangible solutions towards receiving more funding for the arts that include potential governmental measures, cultural policies, and funding models.

 

 

Photo by Mary Turner (Getty Images)

 

 

Given the resilience of the art community, and the dire need to address an increase in mental health concerns, an increase in funding for the arts is not out of reach. Yet, with the current state of the economy, is it naive to believe that the art sector can pull through successfully? Is it overly ambitious to conclude that the arts are essential as the world tries to recover from COVID-19? Could communities outside of our own benefit from exposure to the arts and the use of art therapy in their internal quest to find peace and recovery through what has been a devastating 4 month period, or are we destined to make the same mistakes we similarly make in justifying the cuts of the liberal arts in a period when stimulus checks and government aid are our saving grace.

 


 

(1) K-12 arts funding (USA): Program provides funds to school districts to provide after school and extended learning time activities. Incorporating arts education into this program would provide a powerful opportunity to enhance learning through the arts. 

 

(2) K-12 education system (USA): stands for 'from kindergarten to 12th grade'. This equates roughly to a school starting age of around five through to Grade 12 at around the age of 18. The system is broken down into three stages: elementary school (Grades K –5), middle school (Grades 6–8) and high school (Grades9– 12).

 


 

Ashley Ramos is the founder and CEO of CUR8 Gallery. For a number of years, Ashley has been deeply involved in the art world both domestically and abroad with commercial curatorial spaces in Soho, New York, Montauk, Eastern Long Island and Design District in Miami, Florida. As not only an art advisory owner, public curator, and art critic, Ashley has a heavy hand and involvement in art programming for various philanthropic groups.

Through first-hand experience and engagement in the art industry, Ashley has been able to grow a youthful and high net-worth client base as well as numerous fruitful connections in the art fair circuit and auction houses around the globe. With her company, Cur8, Ashley has created a gallery space that functions as a platform to foster high sales volume while simultaneously expanding her artists’ exposure.

Ashley’s go-getter attitude and ability to delicately take the time to understand each artist’s vision allows her to create a unique symbiosis between her and the artists she represents.