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National Arts and Humanities Month: An Expert's Advocacy Guide

“The arts and humanities are expressions, but they also are experiences. We go see a performance, we listen to a piece of music, we witness a theatrical event, we go look at a piece of art. At the same time, this is also an expression for those of us who create, who put these things out into the world.”

Dr. Gregory X. Whitmore, Assistant Professor of Instrumental Music Education at CSU Fullerton’s School of Music

The arts and humanities are a vast field that encompasses everything from performance art to painting, music, languages, and even history. At Harvard, the Department of Arts and Humanities spans 21 departments. While to many, the arts and humanities can seem esoteric, they are, in fact, part of everyday life.

“I think too often we allow the arts and humanities to be a discussion about these elevated experiences such as the opera, symphony, or museum, and not enough about the day-to-day interactions that we all have with them,” says Dr. Gregory X. Whitmore, assistant professor of instrumental music education at the California State University Fullerton School of Music.

Each year, the month of October is set aside as National Arts and Humanities Month to celebrate this important field. For more than 30 years, this month has been a time to recognize the value of the arts and humanities in our country. While it can be easy to think about this month as an opportunity to appreciate the work created, it is also about celebrating those who create the work and its value in their lives.

“The arts and humanities are expressions, but they also are experiences. We go see a performance, we listen to a piece of music, we witness a theatrical event, we go look at a piece of art,” says Dr. Whitmore. “At the same time, this is also an expression for those of us who create, who put these things out into the world.”

To Dr. Whitmore, the arts and humanities aren’t a bonus part of life. They are essential: “It’s vital to our lives. It is as vital as air, water, and all daily things we do to sustain ourselves. Imagine if it was all gone and we had nothing that allowed us to express ourselves. All of us have routines, but there are moments in each day when the routine is broken. Typically it’s broken by something in the arts, giving us joy that gives us time to reflect on our lives. And imagine if we didn’t have that. What would life look like?” he asks.

Keep reading to learn more about the importance of National Arts and Humanities Month, exciting careers in this field, and advice on getting started.

Meet The Expert: Dr. Gregory X. Whitmore, PhD

Gregory X. Whitmore

Dr. Gregory X. Whitmore is an assistant professor of instrumental music education at the California State University Fullerton School of Music. In this capacity, he
teaches in the instrumental music education program, supervises student teachers, and conducts the CSUF Symphonic Winds.

In addition to his work in higher education, Dr. Whitmore is in his ninth season as Music Director of the Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble in Irvine, CA. He received his bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education from The University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance, his first master’s degree in music with an emphasis in wind conducting from California State University Fullerton, and his second master’s degree and a doctorate in music and music education from Columbia University Teachers College.

With a research interest in music educator values as operationalized into pedagogy and investigating the concert band as an artistic medium, Dr. Whitmore has presented research at music education symposia in the United States and abroad.

The Importance of National Arts and Humanities Month

According to Americans for the Arts, the organization responsible for National Arts and Humanities Month, this month “is the time for communities to come together in unified celebration of the power of the arts to make a difference and change our lives for the better.” Since 1993, this month has brought awareness to the importance of this part of American culture.

“Arts and Humanities Month matters because it’s an opportunity for the everyday person to understand that the arts are an experience for them. If they don’t get it, how can we help them to get it? How can we make it even more approachable, acceptable, and accessible, so that people can come and be a part of it?” says Dr. Whitmore. To this end, he believes that the best way to help make the arts and humanities more approachable is to help people see them in their everyday lives.

Dr. Whitemore continues, “Connecting to the arts is more than just something to do when you have free time or something to do with leisure money or activities. It is an everyday thing. Like when your son or daughter is watching a cartoon, they’re having an interaction with the arts. When you listen to the music that accompanies the movie you love, and you’re so moved by the film and the soundtrack, that’s the arts. It’s not always Beethoven or these elevated experiences—it’s an everyday thing.”

Careers in Arts and Humanities

The arts and humanities is a vast field that covers many disciplines. “We’ve gotten sort of into a one-track mind of I have to perform or I have to teach, but there are so many things that one can do in and around the arts,” says Dr. Whitmore. “We need more intentionally focused people in careers that may not be creating art but are just as vital.” Here are a few careers he suggests:

Become a Museum Curator

“Museum curators make very intentional decisions about the art that’s being placed in spaces and how people interact with that space,” says Dr. Whitmore. “These folks are making these decisions about what the experience will be like for the person coming in the front door and what the art will say for that person.”

While most museum curators work in art galleries or fine art museums, many are employed at historical sites, government agencies, zoos, botanical gardens, and even nature centers. Education is critical to this job, as is hands-on work experience learning how to put together a show, exhibit, or display. The majority of museum curators hold a master’s degree or higher.

Become an Arts Administrator

Simply put, arts administrators make the arts happen. Everything that goes into a play, gallery exhibition, or event, from booking venues to paying vendors, training staff, and managing budgets, is an arts administrator’s responsibility.

“What the arts really need are administrators who understand how to connect the arts into the everyday world where we have business transactions, but also respect the work being put into that space,” says Dr. Whitmore. “They need to understand the artists, the world in which we’re trying to get this art live, and the business of it.”

To get started in this field, aspiring arts administrators can earn a bachelor’s or master’s in art administration, as well as volunteer or intern at an art venue, museum, theater, or gallery that has the type of art they are interested in.

Become a Music or Art Therapist

“Music therapy is growing right now as a field,” mentions Dr. Whitmore, “It’s unique in that it takes something that we experience and finds a way that it can help people. Another emerging area is [art therapy]. Hospitals, like children’s hospitals, use painting to help patients cope. This field is not new, but I think we’re discovering its ability to help people.”

There are many career options within the field of art and music therapy. Professionals in this field can become formally licensed art therapists who provide mental health care services or work at a more casual level playing music for hospitalized patients. Art therapists may work with patients of all ages, from children to the elderly in nursing homes, providing them with a hobby and an outlet.

Online Arts and Humanities Training Programs

Here are three online options for those wanting to work in the arts and humanities.

Washington State University Global Campus

Washington State University Global Campus offers an online bachelor’s of arts in humanities for students looking for a diverse education. Students in this program will study the humanities, liberal arts, and social sciences. As part of this major, students will be asked to evaluate their personal, career, and academic goals to craft a program that integrates two or more diverse areas.
Skills gained in this program include writing, problem-solving, communication, and critical thinking. Graduates of this program can go on to work in various fields, including communications, education, social services, business, and human resources.

  • Location: Pullman, WA
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Tuition: $617.65 per credit

Louisiana State University

There are several online arts and humanities bachelor’s degree options at Louisiana State University, including general studies, humanities, sociology, and interdisciplinary studies. Depending on the major, students will graduate with either a bachelor’s of general studies or a bachelor’s of arts.

Students will learn several areas of concentration in each major, including applied sciences, humanities, and social sciences. They are encouraged to choose classes from various fields to obtain a well-rounded education. There is a lot of flexibility for students to design a course of study that meets their interests.

  • Location: Baton Rouge, LA
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $284 per credit

Monterey Peninsula College

The online general studies associates of arts in arts and humanities at Monterey Peninsula College can be completed 100 percent through distance learning. This program aims to develop an appreciation, understanding, and awareness of the human condition and how it relates to society.

While students will take traditional classes such as English and philosophy, there is a strong emphasis in this program on performing and visual arts as a mode of communication. In total, students must complete 60 credits to earn this degree.

  • Location: Monterey, CA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC)
  • Tuition: $311 per credit

Advice and Resources for Starting a Career in the Arts and Humanities

Because the arts and humanities are such vast fields, there are many opportunities to start a career in this field. “Go find a local place where the art you appreciate is celebrated and ask for opportunities to intern or volunteer…This can help you get in on the ground floor and help you to establish yourself in that space,” offers Dr. Whitmore. “I stress the local part because it helps connect you with your community.”

In pursuing a career in this field, it is essential not to lose the reason why: “Stay connected to the art you make, whether you’re painting, singing, acting, authoring—stay connected to that because that keeps it alive. As you begin to matriculate into the profession, don’t lose the spark, the love for this, as you begin to go through the grind of trying to get employed,” advises Dr. Whitmore.

Here are some resources for those looking to move into this field:

Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.