During our time in Wales we visited Angela Graham at Cardiff University. She is a teacher there as well as a documentary filmmaker. One of my classmates said to me after our class with her that they felt they learned more in the short time we spent we her than they did in some of their classes back at Michigan State. While I don’t know if I would go that far, I did leave our meeting with Angela Graham feeling inspired. She talked about media in Wales and how some parts of it are different from media in the United States. To start, media in Wales is presented in both English and Welsh. Things like road signs, brochures, and government websites and television are in both languages. This is because Wales has two national languages, Welsh and English. Twenty-four percent of people on Wales speak Welsh. The people here are trying to hold onto their native language. This is also something I saw in Ireland. In American, I feel like there is a mentality that English is the only language that should be used and that everyone who comes to America must learn English. This is in contrasts to the Welsh mentality. The majority of people here speak English, but they still make sure that Welsh is also present and accessible for that small amount of people who only speak Welsh. I can only imagine the arguments that would happen if back home we tried to put Spanish next to English on all of our media. Even though 52.6 million people in the US speak Spanish, many places are not willing to accommodate this growing population. Some regions of the US do use both Spanish and English in the media, but most of these changes were made by local Spanish speaking populations, not the government. As the US moves into being an increasingly multilingual country, I wonder if we will adopt a language and media system like Wales has.
Something else Angela Graham talked about was Wales’s focus on the oral arts. Wales is known as the Land of Song. It has a historic interest in song, poetry, and storytelling. In our class, Angela Graham made the connection between these types of media and documentary filmmaking. This was exciting for me because in addition to my Media and Information major I am also an Arts and Humanities major. I have made my own connections between things like poetry and filmmaking, but it was exciting to see someone else making those connections and pointing out their importance. She talked about how much thought goes into all types of arts and media, and how all types of communications are about sharing ideas and experiences. We read the poem “Personal Helicon” by Seamus Heaney. During her presentation, Angela Graham kept referring back to this poem and how it is important we find something that makes our lives better that can also help others. She stressed that it is important to be dedicated and passionate when working in the field of communications. I thought it was so cool that she used a poem as a teaching tool in a media class. It goes to show that Wales may have a better understanding of the power and importance of the arts.
When you walk around Cardiff, you can see the focus Wales puts on the arts present in the city. One of the big landmarks in Cardiff that has to do with the arts is the Wales Millennium Centre. The building is huge and opulent. On the front of the building there are quotes in both English in Welsh that say, “In these stones horizons sing” and “Creating truth like glass from inspiration’s furnace.” These words were chosen by Gwyneth Lewis, and here is an explanation behind why she chose the words she did. You will also find a lot of murals and street art when exploring Cardiff. The governments of Wales has an Arts Council that works with the Welsh Government to show how the arts are helping to meet policy ambitions. The idea of a government and the arts working together to help one another achieve goals that better the country is something I admire.
When think about how Wales understands the arts, I can’t help but think about my own country’s government and its attitude about the arts. Donald Trump proposed completely eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This would have a bigger impact than many Americans realize. Things like PBS and NPR rely on government funding. The future of that arts in American would be put in danger if our government eliminated funding and took a stance against the arts. The money that goes to the NEA and the NEH is such a small portion of the nation budget. Together, along with funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, just 0.016 percent of the national budget in 2016 went to these groups. Eliminating the funding will do hardly anything to save the country money. This is a statement from the current administration that they do not see value in the arts.
What makes a country cherish or dismiss the arts? Both the United States and Wales are countries with rich and diverse arts legacies. Why is it that Wales understands the value the arts can add to a country and our current administration doesn’t? It it up to individuals to fight for the arts and make sure everyone understands why they matter. The arts and humanities can do so much good. They can teach, enrich, touch and connect people. Making connections from the arts to things like government policy or documentary filmmaking is one way to help people understand their value. I am glad I am not alone in thinking that the arts connect to and have can be useful in many other fields. The connection to the arts is one of the main reasons why Wales has been my favorite place to visit on this trip. I would love to come back one day, and maybe even live here in the future.