Pablo Picasso is credited with saying “Art washes away the dust of everyday life.” And that is true. But art does much, much more than that. It inspires us to greatness. That is why when we travel to Europe we flock to see the works of the Greeks and their beautiful statues; the masterpieces of the Renaissance painters; the cornucopia of methods and “schools” for painting images which have evolved; and the inspiring presentations of time and place captured in architecture.

So why then is the Carlsbad Unified School District proposing to eliminate visual art programs — painting, ceramics, sculpture and photography? For the moment, the performing arts of band, orchestra, and choir appear safe.

However, without art America would not be what it is today.

For example, it was the art of John Gast, Emanuel Leutze, and even the art in the detailed sketches of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark which stimulated the desire to expand our borders from sea to shining sea.

And without the visual arts it is doubtful that naturalist John Muir would have been successful in convincing President Benjamin Harrison to set aside Yosemite as a National Park in 1890.

It was the 1855 sketches of “Yosemite Falls” by Thomas Ayres and the drawings of James Mason Hutchings published in Hutchings’s Illustrated California Magazine, beginning in 1856, which opened the eyes and minds of America to the beauty residing there.

Long before Ansel Adams made his first trip to Yosemite in 1916, photographers like Charles Leander Weed began presenting his photos of the “Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity” in public seminars beginning in 1859.

Without the visual arts it is quite likely that Yosemite Valley could have gone the same way as the Hetch Hetchy Valley, the neighbor valley to the north – which is now gone, drowned, forever.

As Shakespeare says in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: “The object of art is to give life a shape.”

The auditors and accountants can recite the math of the current Carlsbad Unified budget and claim that fiscal reality demands reductions in programs and increased class sizes.

While the whole education system is in as great a need for a total makeover just as some feel that healthcare system is, to cut the visual arts, even “temporarily,” is to take away the awakening and the education of students to the values which constitute one of the pillars which support the very creation of our civilization, the greatness of our country and the reason for being proud to be American.

Carlsbad School District — keep hands off any cuts to the visual arts budget!

Richard and Helen Nielsen-Eckfield live in Carlsbad.

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