Costa Mesa, CA, USA

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Zocalo Public Square: Do the Arts Make Us Better People?

Posted on February 12, 2014 | 11:56am | Travel Costa Mesa

Do the arts make us better people?  That was the question posed to guests at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa last night during the Zocalo Public Square and the Getty public philosophical discussion about the role the arts plays in society.

Zocalo Public Square

Guests filled the Samueli Theater to capacity.  As SCFTA staff worked diligently to add more chairs on the balcony of the theater, the esteemed panel of Susan Orlean, James Cuno, Terrence Dwyer and moderator Jori Finkel took their place on the stage.

Zocalo Public Square

Orlean is a staff writer for The New Yorker and has several published books including The Orchid Thief, which was adapted for the film Adaptation.  Cuno is the president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust.  Cuno has also been the director of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London.  Dwyer is the president of Segerstrom Center for the Arts and under his guidance, has enable SCFTA to become an arts leader in Southern California with world-class music, dance and theater productions.

Zocalo Public Square

Zocalo Public Square is a not for profit ideas exchange that incorporates live events with humanities journalism.  Zocalo partners with educational, cultural and philanthropic institutions to present free public events and conferences nationwide.  Last night’s discussion was the first time Zocalo was in Orange County, so it was a fitting venue in the City of the Arts at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Zocalo Public Square

The panel used personal experiences, anecdotes and noted research to share their views and ideas about the benefits of the arts. Putting a quantitative value of the arts is a difficult task. While some research suggests that reading fiction makes us emphasize more and that music can make us happier, it is nearly impossible to measure the impact of the arts.

There were certainly arts-lovers abound at last night’s discussion.  The audience was engaged with the panel, which suggests that each individual had been moved in some form by the arts.  For us, the answer to the question is simple: yes, the arts do make us better people.  The arts can be used in so many ways, but most importantly, the arts enrich lives and provide insights into the world we live in.