If the Arts Were Treated Like Sports

Diane Sobelewski

Diane Sobelewski

Anthony J. Piccione

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am very passionate about the arts, particularly when it comes to my love of theatre, film and creative writing. I enjoy these more than anything else, I am grateful to have had the chance to study them in school, and I feel as if my life would be completely miserable without them. Anyone who knows me especially well also probably knows that I’m not exactly the biggest sports fan in the world, and whenever a big game comes on – such as the Super Bowl, just to give one example – I couldn’t possibly care any less for how it goes.

This was a big reason why I wasn’t particularly happy with my high school while I was a student there. While this may have been the time in my life when I discovered my love for the art of theatre, it was also the time in which it became far more apparent to me than ever that people involved in the arts – whether they be actors, writers, painters or musicians – largely don’t get the same level of respect from much of society that athletes do.

Our school’s Drama Club had little to no funding, while all the sports teams at my school had all the money they needed to compete with any other school in the state. Our principal made sure to attend every single football game, but he attended Drama Club productions just so he could say to our director that he showed up, and then he left about halfway through…when he ever attended them at all, that is. Usually, the rest of our audiences at our school Drama Club largely consisted of parents and friends of cast members, unlike the typically large crowds that the sports teams at our school attracted.

It is this experience I had in high school that largely shaped the way I look at this issue today, and why I feel strongly about the need to speak up on these issues as a writer for this blog.While it has been a few years since I graduated from high school, it is still something that sticks out in my mind, and largely informs the way I write about theatre as an adult. I Continue to talk about this issue – which affects many other schools across the country today – in the hopes that maybe, if more people listen and more people speak up, someday we’ll see a day where the arts – including theatre – are funded and appreciated in schools just as much as sports.

It sounds almost too good to be true, for those of us who had the misfortune of attending a high school such as mine, but I believe it also sounds like a vision that all of us should hope to see someday. A day where bigger and better shows can be put on by Drama Clubs, which in turn could lead to more interest for them, in terms of both attendance and auditions. A day where the opening night of a show is celebrated just as much as a homecoming football game. A day where the artsy kids would be just as appreciated and admired as the jocks. Call me naïve if you want, but I do believe that this vision is very much something that is worth aspiring toward someday, because many of us already know that it is not this way today at all.

To be clear, I mean no disrespect to the people who are involved in athletics rather than the arts. I recognize that we all have our own different talents in different areas, and I feel that everyone should have a chance at improving substantially in those areas at school, so that they are better prepared for after they graduate. However, the fact of the matter is that – while people may not realize it – we encounter art everywhere we go. It exists in the form of the books we read, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, the video games we play, and of course, the shows that we attend. What does that say about our schools when they don’t do as much to help and shape the next generations of artists as they do to show off the next generation of athletes? Granted, not all schools in America have it as bad as my high school did, but nonetheless, it is still a fairly significant problem in most schools – whether it is that extreme or not – and it is something that I believe is worth thinking about, especially for those of us in the theatre community who often read this blog.

I often emphasize the need for additional funding for the arts in past columns, but this approaching weekend has gotten me thinking about it more than ever, as I look back on my teen years in theatre and how my school could have spent a little less of athletics just so we could have a slightly better Drama Club. So the next time you sit down to watch a big game – or if you are more like me, the next time you see someone on social media posting about the big game – I hope you think about this issue, and how comparatively speaking, many schools do not provide either the same level of respect or resources to arts programs that they often do to their athletic teams. Wouldn’t be nice if this were something that people actually talked about as they were watching the game? If such a thing were to happen more often, then maybe that would be the beginning of how some change could get done for the better. Or am I, once again, being too optimistic…