Friday, April 17, 2015

Deleted--Letter #41

Dear Governor Ducey,
I took a couple of days off writing letters when I received an email from the Arizona Commission on the Arts saying that because the state had cut all funding to the Commission, they wouldn’t be able to give as many grants as usual and the competition for the ones they could give would be incredibly stiff. For the past three years, I’ve applied for funding from the ACA to invite guest writers from across mostly Arizona but also the rest of the country to come speak to our classes and to give readings as part of the Narrow Chimney reading series. The number of faculty in our MFA program is few and we think (thought) it is important for us to supplement our students’ experience by bringing a wide variety of writers to town.
But, that’s not looking so feasible for next year. The budget cut that bites doubly. Our class caps have been raised. Our loads are being scrutinized. We will be asked to do more, with less, again and then we will be asked to do less with less because the ACA’s budget line has been obliterated. No more readings for students. Class caps higher than any best practices document can support. But it’s all right, right? It’s just art? Who needs art?
That’s why I didn’t write, because when someone deletes something that is important to you, sometimes silence is all you can say. But silence is what you want. That’s what the deletion meant. Stop making art. Stop bringing art to your students. Stop pretending art is worth money. When you prohibited cities from banning plastic bags from stores, I thought a good protest would be for all of us to come to Phoenix and protest by putting plastic bags over our heads but I expect your response might be, “pull the handles tighter.”
I’m not going to waste my breath here (maybe later) to argue how art is valuable. Like the oxygen in a plastic bag, my arguments will be quickly inhaled and rebutted with an exhausted “no. Not listening.”
So. Instead of suffocating in a plastic bag of “art is good,” I just thought I’d list some of the artful successes of the writing students have had lately:

One student got into NYU’s MFA program.
One student had an essay published in Arts and Letters issue 30.
Another student had a review published in New Found and a ghazal called Sandhill in the Journal of Contemporary Ghazals.
Another student has a story forthcoming in Curios.
Two former students together published the first Narrow Chimney Reader
They also won a Viola Award for the Narrow Chimney Reading Series.
They also are bringing back the Northern Arizona Book Festival.
One of those two had a poem titled Retired Speedfreak Chopper Rider published in the Spring 2015 edition of Ray's Road Review.
One student will appear in the film 'Durant's Never Closes' opposite Tom Sizemore 
One student has a poem forthcoming in 3 Elements.

That’s just what I got from a quick, “tell me your good news” email I sent this morning. Maybe there will be more news later. My students aren’t so good with silence.

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