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Mormon Parenting: Parents need to introduce kids to arts

Published: Sunday, May 20 2012 4:27 p.m. MDT

The audience begin taking their seats after intermission during the Salute to Youth concert Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011 at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

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One of the most important things we can do for our kids is to teach them to love and appreciate fine art in all of its forms.

Let me (Richard) start this column off by disclaiming any natural talent or inherent affinity for any of the noble fine arts and performing arts in this world. Anything that I ended up with is fully attributable to Linda, who not only got all the talent that I missed but who also gradually and patiently taught me to partially understand and fully love the arts.

With that preface, let me tell you a story.

Many years ago, while we lived in Washington, D.C., I got a call from the venerable Obert C. Tanner, one of the most stalwart champions of the arts that this state has ever had.

He told me that he thought the dream of a performing arts center for Salt Lake City might be possible, but that it would take a successful bond election to make it happen. I had been the campaign planner and manager for Jake Garn's first successful run for the U.S. Senate, and Obert felt I was the person to run the arts center bond election and get it passed.

I had my doubts. It is hard in any circumstance to get people to vote for increasing their taxes. And when you are trying to get them to do it to build a performing arts center that many think they will never attend, the odds get pretty long.

But Obert was persuasive.

"We need to do this for our children and for our community's future," he said.

Linda removed any doubts about whether I should do it when she said, "Of course you'll do it, Honey. We are talking about the ARTS!"

So no more doubts about whether I should do it, but plenty remaining about whether I could do it — about whether we as a community could convince ourselves to vote for a bond that would make the arts more accessible to our children.

We moved to Salt Lake City and the issue got put on the ballot. It didn't look good for a while. The first polls showed it going down in spectacular defeat. People were saying things like, "Why should we give public support for the artsy symphony-goers and not for the deer hunters or those of us who would rather go bowling?"

We had the patrons and performing artists with us, of course, and those who wanted a more arts-oriented community for themselves and their kids. But it didn't look like there were enough votes to pass the bond election.

Then along came a serendipitous breakthrough. The New York acoustician who was helping design the proposed center told us he thought we were making a mistake by planning a multipurpose hall that could work equally for the symphony, the ballet and dramatic groups.

"It will be a compromise," he said, "and you will never get the acoustics you want for the symphony and the deep stage and large proscenium that is best for opera and dance and drama in one building."

He asked if we couldn't somehow find an old theater to restore for ballet and opera and build a single-use acoustical gem just for the symphony.

That thought led me, one dark cloudy day, to buy a movie ticket and walk into the old sheet-rocked and painted-over Capitol Theatre on 200 South. When I saw what a magnificent theater it had once been, I knew we might have our strategy.

As it turned out, we were able to offer voters two arts centers — a new symphony hall and a restored Capitol Theatre for a cost that was less than the estimate for one new multipurpose hall. The attractiveness of the two-for-one deal and the added support of restoration and architectural buffs put us over the top, and the bond election passed.

I will never forget Obert Tanner and Maurice Abravanel, the long-term conductor of the symphony, crying like babies as the election results were announced and their dream of a new hall was realized.

Now to the point of this story: Salt Lake City is blessed with some of the finest venues and the finest performing arts talents and organizations of any city in the country.

Our talent and our access to it rivals that of cities 10 times our size.

Families and parents need to take advantage of this exceptional access and expose their children to the emotion of a grand symphony, the majesty of an opera and the magic of the ballet.

At least it will plant the seeds in our children of a lifelong artistic appreciation, and at best it may uncover and reveal in your child a talent that will bless the community and the world.

The Eyres' three latest books are "The Entitlement Trap," "5 Spiritual Solutions" and "The Three Deceivers." Richard and Linda are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda Eyre's blog at www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Listen to their weekly radio show on Mondays at 4:30 at www.byuradio.org.

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