On Wednesday night at the Cinema Circus, one of the short films shown was an animated adaptation of the book Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct, written by Mo Willems. In the words and artistry of Mr. Willems, Edwina the dinosaur is very much alive. She plays with all the kids at the playground serving as a slide or helpful friend carrying those too young to cross the street to safety. Everyone is delighted except one boy, Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie, who declares that dinosaurs are extinct. The rightness of Reginald’s cause makes him blind to the magical wonder right in front of him, even when Edwina bakes him chocolate chip cookies.
The story is a playful children’s book and Edwina is an invention of the author. And yet, after another summer on the Vineyard filled with all manner of arts events, lectures, concerts and cultural forums, the lessons of Edwina seem strangely prescient. Arts and culture are thriving on the Island and yet to listen to the discussion at the national level, one would not be remiss in concluding that the arts are extinct, or at least on their way out. Funding for the arts is constantly under attack, and arts programs in schools are often cut in favor of the tangible returns subjects like math and science can offer.
Arts and culture, it could be argued, expand our horizons to better view the world as a multidimensional place with myriad stories both similar to and vastly different from our own story. The benefit of this journey is difficult to measure with a number two pencil and bubble sheet, and yet the importance of this awareness with regard to human potential is vast. Thankfully, arts and culture on the Vineyard continue to bake us all some very delicious chocolate chip cookies.
A look at the arts calendar for any day this summer would have included prose or poetry readings, music featuring both local and off-Island musicians, theatre, art gallery openings, jazz concerts, film festivals, comedy, modern dance, lectures and forums; the list really is endless. And, for the most part, the events were packed, often standing room only.
At the Olympics this year an athlete said after winning a gold medal that he had given up dessert for two years to train. Artists also give up a lot — time, of course, but also money. That the arts do not pay well, if at all, is a known fact. For most artists, the creative muse must wait until the regular nine-to-five job is finished. And yet, despite all the obstacles, the arts continue to blossom here on the Vineyard, keeping the Reginald Von Hoobie-Doobie’s of the world at bay.
For this, we say thank you.