It is hard to imagine Anchorage without an aesthetic resource like the University of Alaska, Anchorage (Fairbanks, and Southeast). Closer scrutiny — it’s hard to imagine Alaska without UA satellite campuses that give Bush villagers opportunities. Governor Michael Dunleavy’s proposed cuts are not only shortsighted, they’re a travesty. I get it — there is redundancy in departments and there are folks who sit on boards forever, never letting in new blood, and yes, there is overspending and boondoggling. There are also teachers who are mean, insensitive and discriminatory; we’ve all been there. Don’t ‘throw the baby out with the bath’ just because of bureaucratic misbehavior.
Art classes are always considered a frill, and the first items cut out of budgets. Honor students are routinely steered away from taking aesthetics for more so-called studious activities, supposedly to achieve a healthier and remunerative adulthood. Spoiler alert: this is changing. Colleges and museums are blending art and science into classes and exhibitions to address issues like mental health and Climate Change. A ‘Smithsonian’ article states, “British Doctors May Soon Prescribe Art, Music, Dance, Singing Lessons (11/08/18).” The Metropolitan Museum conducts classes on how to read a painting for New York police officers to better understand how to acutely scrutinize crime scenes. OK, sometimes art is silly. We have only to look at Trump’s Fourth of July on the Mall to see first-hand visual extravagance. Well, maybe Trump’s blooper, the image of Washington getting into his private jet at Newark Airport, was so absurd, it visually conjured up inadequacies of his administration.
I don’t know anybody in Alaska who has not benefited from the UA system: taught a class, taken a class, signed their kid up for a class. Back in the early seventies, when we first arrived in Anchorage, husband Dave taught a UAA business law class to supplement our income. We were grateful for the extra cash. As an eighties Hillside soccer mom, I was insanely bored doing endless shopping, meal planning, house cleaning, and driving kids to music and sports. I had also lost my parents and my husband’s parents within a year and was feeling rather rotten. So, I enrolled in a Joan Kimura Illustration class at UAA. Six weeks in, I announced to my family I would be continuing on for a degree. Although I was encouraged to go outside to grad school, which I eventually did, I could never have left Alaska in the eighties with babies at home. If it hadn’t been for art classes I took at UAA, which also required academics, I never would be able to write and paint today.
UAA allows high school students to take classes, and hosts music and debate competitions, putting extra brownie points onto out-of-state college applications. UAA helps students go on to law, medicine, and engineering Outside. It’s the college’s job, and they benefit too.
In the eighties, daughter Jenn took additional high school math at UAA before online matriculation. When she came home from college in the early nineties, Jenn took computer classes which colleges Outside hadn’t offered her. Beginning as office staff in the insurance industry, she took pottery classes to vary her sometimes boring routine. Two of my three sons took UAA’s Jazz Ensemble, while in high school. Younger daughter, Maddy, participated in theater groups performing at UAA, and went on to the highly acclaimed Off-Broadway production of ‘PUFFS’.
Even though we are experiencing beach weather this summer, the long, dark, icy winter will return, and people of all ages will flock to UAA classes. I know adults who discover art in their retirement, because creating is colorfully inviting, and deliciously frustrating. No one can paint the perfect picture or take the perfect photograph; they seductively tease to try, try again.
True, the Pipeline years saw money wasted in ways we can’t afford today. However, the state still has enough Permanent Fund money invested and saved to support the arts. Doling out fat PFD checks to those who will spend haphazardly means UAA furloughs faculty, thus losing resources that benefit the entire state—this is not right! UAA’s student body which comes from all over the Arctic, enriching Anchorage, will shrink too. Thorton Wilder (Matchmaker/ Hello Dolly) wrote, “Money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.”
I wager many of the Legislators, hopefully debating whether to override Dunleavy, have benefited from UAA in some way too. Please, Representatives, reconsider the aesthetic health of Anchorage, and the rest of the state.
Mini Sleuth: Smithsonian article: www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/british-doctors-may-soon-prescribe-art-music-dance-singing-lessons-180970750/
Jean Bundy aica-usa is a writer/painter in Anchorage