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leap. for the arts, for Texas By Lance Lalor Houston Ralph Waldo Emerson called art “the illusion of a’ lciftier reality.” Only in that sense can the Texas Legislature perpetually trying to look and to sound grander than it isbe said to have an interest in art. Otherwise, the arts, cultural aspirations, and most intellectual pursuits rank very low on the list of our lawmakers’ prioritieswell below their concern for what size nets can be used to trawl for juvenile brown shrimp or which lobbyist will pick up the bar tab. A legislator approaching the front microphone of the Texas House of Representatives to speak for a bill to benefit the arts will not be greeted with the open hostility he might expect if he were advocating, say, gay rights or a corporate profits tax. But he won’t hold his colleagues’ attention, either. Instead, he’ll be overwhelmed by indifference and impatience to get on to lunch and other important matters. Texas legislators simply draw a blank on the arts. They have no sense of shame that Texas is dead last among the 50 states in per-capita support for artistic endeavors. They whispered not a word of protest when Dolph Briscoe vetoed 40 percent of the state’s meager arts budget in 1975. Why? Some say it is because most of our legislators are so ‘insensitive that they cannot appreciate a thing of beauty. In other words, what else would you expect from a bunch of yahoos who invariably judge the frame to be prettier than the painting? But the fundamental explanation is more challenging: state aid is paltry because the folks back home who care about the arts don’t lobby their representatives. Too many of them have concluded that politics is dirty, lobbying is evil, and politicians are incorrigible. So they throw up their hands, mutter maledictions against the Legislature, and exile themselves from the political process. Yet Texas artists and those who appreciate their contribution to the life of the community could plead a persuasive case.. Interest in the arts is booming. New professional theater groups, local arts councils, art galleries, and dance companies are forming throughout the state. Museums are drawing record crowds. Street theater, art festivals, and neighborhood art groups are burgeoning. Burdened for years with a for-rich-kids-only image, the arts are being enjoyed, practiced and talked about by more Texans than ever before. In small towns, old-time opera houses are being transformed into lively forums for local talent. In urban neighborhoods, a renewed sense of ethnic pride is being cultivated through the arts and folk crafts. And, in some schools, 14 JULY 21, 1978