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Letter: Todd Cimino-Johnson, Leesburg

Editor: Imagine all the art and entertainment you watch, listen to, or see every week. Many people listen to music while they are riding in the car. Millions of people subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and cable television for entertainment. Millions of people in this country went to the movie theatre every year, before COVID-19. There are concerts we participate by the millions in our communities and at large venues. Where do all these entertainers come from?   

The fine arts in this country are not funded at the same level as sports and are not treated the same.  There are about 20 athletic sports listed just on one local high school website. That means each of them needs a head coach, assistant coaches, athletic director, assistant athletic director, and other various paid positions.  There are also freshmen, JV, varsity teams with these individual sports. They each need their court, field, or place to practice and play. Also, sports have their one-page stipend schedule for high schools. The head coach of the football team receives $7,343 for one season or ten games.  The stipend for drama is $5,556 for the entire year or at least four performances.  

In the past month, Gove. Northam had to revise his executive orders on gatherings. Fine arts venues were labeled social gatherings, and as such only 50 people could be gathered, including performers and audience members. After a petition and call from various individuals, Governor Northam apologized and made changes since sports were given 100 spectators inside and viewed differently.  

When you go to a school website, you might find right in the middle of the screen a link for athletics. Where is the link for the fine arts? It is buried somewhere within the website if one even exists. We should ask ourselves, is this equitable. Are we treating the arts in the same capacity we treat sports? High school students are required to take two physical education credits but no fine arts credits. Why? 

According to the Educational Theatre Association, 91% of voters believe that the arts are essential for building imagination, and 73% felt that the ability to imagine is just as important as basic academic skills. The EDTA website goes on to say that training in acting classes improves language and memory skills. A study from 2010 revealed that students who took four years of fine arts courses while in high school scored 102 points better on their SATs than students who took only one-half year or less. According to the 2012 EdTA-Utah State University survey, 98% of school administrators believe that theatre programs strengthen student’s critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and leadership skills. 

In no way am I attacking sports they have their cultural value in our society. I just want to ask why we are not fully funding arts the way we do athletics in our public schools. Society values arts and entertainment, and it helped us get through the recent pandemic as well as the Great Depression, the Civil War, and the Revolutionary War. Maybe we should ask our elected officials who make the funding decisions to value the arts by equitably funding them. 

Todd Cimino-Johnson, Leesburg