Letter to the Editor–In A Better World…

At the risk of sounding like a bean counter, state support of arts institutions and individual artists has the potential to raise property values, improve schools, create jobs and reduce crime. Impossible! Not at all.The current issue of New Jersey Monthly (March, 2008) lists the 100 best places to live based on factors including proximity to local theaters and performing arts centers and how they add to an improved quality of life.

Some of New Jersey’s bleakest communities have been revitalized when visual artists move in, followed by performing artists then restaurants and other businesses (think ratables!) and finally, families with children. In a better world, visual artists would be able to earn a living by selling their work to a well educated public, actors would not have to wait tables and poets would not have to drive taxi cabs to support themselves. In that same better world sports teams would not need public subsidies to build their giant stadiums and business would not demand tax abatements to build their factories and stores.
I am not a painter, I can’t dance, and I’m no musician. I am a poet who has received several individual fellowships in creative writing. I taught English at Atlantic City High School for almost thirty years, and for many of them, I also taught writing as an adjunct professor at Stockton at night to make ends meet. The first of these awards allowed me to take a semester off to concentrate on my own writing which led to my winning fellowships from other institutions. The precious time these awards gave me allowed me to improve my craft and made me a better teacher of writing to a generation or two of young people who are now working and supporting the economy.
It’s too bad we live in a state whose past administrations made foolish decisions to balance the books. It’s too bad we live in a state which refuses to consolidate its 611 school districts and 566 municipalities. But thank God we live in a state smart enough to support its artists who quietly contribute to the quality of life making New Jersey a great place to live.

Peter Murphy
(printed in Press of Atlantic City on March 5, 2008)

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