Scott Anderson's Remarks after accepting the 2017 Utah Cultural Alliance Lifetime Cultural Achievement Award
December 4, 2017
I want to recognize and congratulate the Utah Cultural Alliance on 35 years of championing – even fortifying – the arts and humanities in Utah. This organization is the voice of the arts and humanities in Utah. You empower and strength this community in terms of art and culture, fostering a sense of community that uplifts and benefits everyone. You are the guardians and the visionaries, and the creative leaders who are ensuring the arts and the humanities are alive and strong and contributing to our culture, to our lives, and to our economy.
What I appreciate most about the Utah Cultural Alliance is that you draw from the richness of our past, combine it with the vitality of the present, to give us hope and promise for the future. Thank you for all you do.
Tax reform is the current hot topic in Washington. I was concerned as I saw proposals that would, in my view, hurt the arts and humanities and make their survival more difficult. I was grateful that the Senate bill, which passed over the weekend, is much better for cultural businesses than the House version of the bill. However, there is still room for improvement.
It is easy to forget that the arts and humanities are, in fact, cultural businesses that have a significant economic impact on our state. Did you know that cultural businesses in Utah, whether they be for-profit or nonprofit entities, contribute over 51,000 jobs in our state? Did you know that the nonprofit sector also generates over $500 million in annual revenue to our economy? In my mind, just from an economic point of view in encouraging growth and creating jobs, the arts and humanities as a cultural business are vital to our success as a state.
The city of Helper is a great example of the power of the cultural and creative industries to revitalize a community, to drive sustainable development, and to create job opportunities. Thanks to people like Roy and Anne Jespersen, the city is rising from the ashes, jobs are being created, the economy is coming back, and people are moving to Helper because of the opportunities emerging there. Roy is a business genius, and Anne is one of the foremost artists in the country. Together, they pooled their talent to combine business with arts to re-vitalize Helper. They formed a non-profit to channel resources to improving the historic part of Helper’s Main Street. And now the city is emerging anew as a center of the arts and the businesses of the arts businesses.
As I enjoyed the Helper Art Festival last August, I thought, “Here is living proof of the value and strength and importance of the arts.” First, as a real factor of regional economic growth; second, as a factor of development based on knowledge, creativity, and tolerance; and thirdly, the very intrinsic value of the arts that can only be measured in the heart and soul.
But while we articulate the economic power of the arts when we talk tax reform and when we seek funding from the State Legislature, I would argue that the primary reason we should invest in the arts, both from a public point of view and from a personal point of view, is their civilizing influence on us and on our communities; the definition it gives to our lives and our perspectives; and the emotion it creates within us that testifies we are in fact human beings with the potential to be gods.
I personally invest in the arts, and my company supports the arts and humanities, because of this inherent value of culture and what it means to us: life-enhancing, entertaining, defining our personal identities; and solidifying our national priorities and visions.
Sir Peter Bazalgette, the CEO of the Arts Council of England, put it this way:
“Take the collective memory from our museums; remove the bands from our schools and choirs from our communities; lose the empathetic plays and dance from our theaters, or the books from our libraries; expunge our festivals, literature, and painting, and you are left with a society bereft of a national conversation --- about its identity or anything else.”
And I would emphasize that art and the humanities really are and should be for everyone --- whether you are rich or poor, white or colored, refugee or established, homeless or comfortable. We must never let the arts and humanities be only for the rich; we must never fall prey to the argument that the arts only benefit certain segments of society. In fact, the arts and humanities flourish when they are inclusive and draw, as again your mission states, from the richness of our various pasts, to the strength of our various presents, all lending to a more integrated, unified future.
I experienced this community building, which only the arts can do, at the opening of the new Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy two weeks ago. As I walked through the incredibly beautiful building, that was made possible by both public and private investments in our culture, I heard comments like: “Can you believe we have something like this in Sandy?” “We won’t need to go to Salt Lake with this facility here.” “We have made it – we are in fact our own city with our own identify and our own personality. We are not just a suburb to Salt Lake.” In a very real sense, the new Hale Centre Theatre has re-defined the city of Sandy and the southern portion of the Salt Lake Valley and strengthened its identify.
Lloyd Newell said at the opening of the Eccles Theater: “Art can be powerful and stirring, and it can be quiet and simple. It can move us and calm us. It can inspire and console us. Art helps us to ponder life’s great questions and appreciate its lighter side. It can lift us when we’re feeling down, and open our eyes and hearts to the needs of those who suffer. Indeed, the arts illuminate the human condition, fostering more empathetic people and more compassionate communities.”
I had the incredible experience last fall of traveling with the Utah Symphony as they visited state parks and communities from Bluff (almost on the Arizona border), to Vernal on the north. They played during wind and rain storms. They played during beautiful evenings with full moon’s. They played in Goblin Valley, and in Dinosaur National Park. What struck me as I attended these concerts is that the whole community came out to hear their “Utah” symphony: grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, singles and couples, rich and in need. All were equal as they sat and enjoyed the music of the Utah symphony. It struck me that this is what makes a community a community; it is what brings people together; it is what unifies families. I overheard a grandmother talking to her grandson and pointing to the violin section of the orchestra and saying: “If you practice, you could play with them when you are older.” To me, that said it all. I am grateful that the State Legislature would help fund such a tour. I am also grateful that we have donors and businesses that would make such a trip possible.
Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of the Utah Museum of Fine Art’s exhibit of western art from the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming called “Go West.” As I walked through the galleries, the paintings and the sculptures, and the American Indian artifacts and clothing were all so remarkable – it was inspiring; it was uplifting; it illustrated the values that influence how we approach living.
The exhibit emphasized to me that in fact our perceptions, our culture, our identify have grown out of the events portrayed by these works of art. How we perceive things is largely affected by our judgment skills, preconceived notions, attitude, and emotions.
As it has been said by others: Our culture gives us an identify, and helps build our character. The cultural values shared across our community or social group, give us a sense of belonging towards society. Our culture unites us and gives us a sense of security. The language we speak, the art, literature, and the heritage we are proud of, our food, our festivals, and our customs and traditions together form our culture.
We are lucky that in Utah we have groups like the Utah Cultural Alliance that ensures the arts are an important part of our culture and our community.
We are lucky that we have in Utah art champions that are willing to exert their influence and their hard-won clout to ensure we don’t lose our cultural heritage, a rich heritage that has set us apart as a community from the very beginning of our founding in 1847. People like Sam and Diane Stewart who combine a love and appreciation of the arts, with business savvy, and with the courage to speak out to protect our cultural heritage. It makes a difference in our community; and it makes our community better.
I want to thank and acknowledge everyone here today for the work you do as part of the Utah Cultural Alliance. Your voice matters. It speaks to the value of arts and culture. It provides rationale for government support, and for individual, personal donations where there are so many other demands.
Your voice and your work in fortifying the arts and humanities matter to the economy, but it is also critically important to our quality of life. The arts and humanities are the cement that binds us together, that heals our hearts and enriches our souls, that builds our neighborhoods and strengthens our communities. It is the foundational blocks of our culture. This is the virtuous circle that philosophers from the beginning of time have heralded as a sign of our humanity.
Congratulations on celebrating 35 years. I hope my great-grandchildren are here to celebrate your 100th.
Thank you again for this honor.