This year marks the hundred year anniversary of one of the seminal events in American culture.
The 1913 Armory Show is credited with introducing this country to modern art. Until that time American sensibilities were grounded in realism. But all that changed when, in one fell swoop, we were introduced to the works of such varied artists as Cezanne, Duchamp, Gauguin, Picasso, Matisse, Monet, and Van Gogh.
The reactions from the press, the public and the art community were sensational. Some loved the new works. Some called the art "insane." Others were shocked, leading to "accusations of quackery, insanity, immorality, and anarchy." But its influence was profound, forever changing our perception of beauty. In describing the show's impact, one prominent modern curator has said that it " ... marks a reordering of the rules of art-making -- it's as big as we've seen since the Renaissance."
While it is hard to imagine an art show generating that kind of attention in today's America, it would be a mistake to think that the potential impact of the arts has diminished. In fact, the opposite is true. With the accessibility provided by technology, in today's world the arts can play an even larger role in generating creativity, providing information, inspiring action and establishing the common cultural bonds that hold us together.
Unfortunately, that potential is in serious jeopardy. Why? Because our schools have all but abandoned the arts.
A few facts bear this out.
Forty-three percent of secondary schools do not require any art courses as a requirement for graduation. An additional 40 percent require just one art course.
Fifty-one percent of 18-year-olds reported having had no arts education in "childhood" (before their 18th birthday), a sharp increase over 1982 when 35 percent reported having had no arts education.
The availability of arts courses is related to income, race and parental education. For example, white 18-24 year-olds have a 58 percent participation rate in art courses, Hispanics 28 percent, and African-Americans 26 percent.