Do We Need More Artists In Elected Office?

The Albany Times Union newspaper recently raised an interesting question: Do we need more artists in public office?

Editor Rex Smith points that given how dysfunctional government often seems to be, that perhaps we are choosing leaders with the wrong skill sets. Instead of lawyers and business owners maybe we should be electing writers and dancers.

Smith makes the point that winning elections requires toughness, cunning, dissecting an opponent and smiling for a camera. But governing, requires a different range of skills that may well be less likely to be learned in law school than in a music studio.

Smith states further:

“Most subjects you study in school have right and wrong answers. In the arts, though, … students learn that accomplishment derives much more from judgment than from rote. Subtleties matter. While you expect a clarinet player to hit the right notes, music soars more from interpretation than precision.”

“Arts training celebrates the reality that there are many ways to see and interpret the world. Flamenco and jazz are vastly different ways of depicting human experience, but both are beautiful. Rehearsing for a string or wind ensemble performance, kids learn how to collaborate and communicate.”

“By contrast, how many of our political battles stem from the notion that there’s only one right solution to a problem? How much subtlety is involved in a congressional debate in which one side insists on no compromise as the only right outcome? How much better off would we be if that sort of thinking were consigned to bar stools rather than seats in legislative chambers?”

“In disputes over allocating public dollars, creativity is often the missing factor.”

An interesting chart showing the previous occupations of current Congress Members can be seen here.

In Erie County and the City of Buffalo the arts community is very vocal about receiving funding but no one from the arts community seems to seek elected office.

What do you think, do we need more artists in public office?

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