Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington Art Alliance
February 2, 1999

Welcome to Olympia, and Happy Groundhog Day.

I hope that your legislators will support the arts, and that spring will come early.

As you know, a Governor's Blue Ribbon Task Force recommended a modest increase in arts funding, and I made that recommendation a part of my proposed state budget. Now the Legislature must act on that request. In the context of a $20 billion state budget, this is a very modest request. But the vision that propels it is not so modest. Those of us who champion this request envision Washington state as a source of cultural innovation that is important not just within our own borders, but to the whole world.

This vision is grounded in the international importance of painters like Kenneth Callahan, Mark Tobey, and Jacob Lawrence; in the sculpture of George Tsutakawa, and in the writing of Raymond Carver, Thom Jones and Sherman Alexie. These are just a tiny fraction of the names we can invoke as our state's contribution to the global culture of this century. But there is an even more compelling argument for supporting the arts - namely, that the arts are as important to human life as oxygen.

We are a uniquely expressive species. Long before the dawn of history, we drew pictures on the walls of caves, and sang lullabies to our children. And in every generation since then, we have produced the free spirits and the creative geniuses who describe the human condition for us in music, literature, dance and the visual arts. Today, we need those free spirits more than ever, because they are the natural proponents of freedom and truth.

Think for a moment about Eastern Europe. Artists were the backbone of the dissident movements that brought an end to communism. The current president of the Czech Republic is a playwright. And all across Eastern Europe, former dissident artists now find themselves running government agencies. These are not jobs that artists ever imagined they would hold. But now they find that they are uniquely qualified to teach people the most essential skill of democracy: to think and speak honestly, from their hearts, without censoring themselves. And they are revealing, for all the world to see, the link between our ability to express ourselves and our ability to govern ourselves.

I hope that when you talk to your legislators today, you will draw this connection between self-expression and authentic self-government and between a healthy cultural life and a healthy political life.

Here in Olympia, we are no strangers to theater or drama. Our rituals are full of both, as anyone who watches us knows all too well. But we need to be reminded - frequently - that other art forms have an equal claim to our allegiance, and to our budget.

So I am deeply grateful to all of you for taking the time to come to Olympia and lobby for funding for the Arts Commission and for the Building for the Arts program. And I want to thank the members of the Arts Task Force for their work. Together, you are helping to strengthen the bonds between government and the arts. And that will make both our civic and cultural life healthier, more vibrant, and more meaningful to the citizens of this great state.

Thank you very much.
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