Letter: Funding cuts threaten Maine arts programs

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Maine’s creative culture is an understated and underrated contributor to our economy. But it wasn’t until I became executive director of an arts venue that I became acutely alarmed by the conditions that endanger our arts culture.

The systemic threat continues by eliminating or dramatically reducing the funding for arts programs in schools. Developing the creative mind is important. Exposure to the arts is an essential component to creative problem solving and provides natural links to innovation, risk taking and entrepreneurialism.

When funding for the arts dries up in our public schools, only the community nonprofit arts organizations can take up the slack. Children explore live action or music that can never be replicated by playing video games on the couch. Elders who participate in art-based projects typically show significant improvement in their emotional outlook.

It is not easy being an arts organization. Few of us are flush with funding. Arts organizations must contract to the size that the economy will support. At the Chocolate Church Arts Center, we are working to adjust to this reality and strengthen our position as a resource for community involvement and appreciation for the arts.

This is a significant time of year. Now is the time to add music and theater and visual arts to the holiday traditions. And while faced with many opportunities for end-of-year donations, I suggest that investing in your local arts organization will garner a return for future enrichment for all of us.

Rep. Jennifer DeChant, executive director
Chocolate Church Arts Center