Op-Ed: Art Tells the Truth

By Ned Hayes and Billy Thomas

On August 24, OLY ARTS helped organize a day-long reading of Volume I of the Mueller Report at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts. A number of local, theatrical artists and elected officials participated in the successful event. Some in the artistic and reader communities have asked why our organization involved itself in “politics.” Here is our answer.

OLY ARTS was established as a vehicle for professional, reliable journalism about cultural events that make our community rich in artistic experiences. Like many, we’ve been saddened by recent diminutions of fact-based journalism. Such journalistic organizations as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and even OLY ARTS have been attacked for reporting the facts. In recent days it seems truth itself — the nature of truth — is under attack.

A key hallmark of journalism is its esteem for truth itself. Without it, we can’t create a shared cultural fabric, so common, civic life decays.  Therefore, when a basic, factual document, created by a nonpartisan group of apolitical officials, is attacked for its very existence, the journalistic community has a responsibility to stand and state the truth without fear or favor.

Our team at OLY ARTS communicates matters of artistic import to the broader culture. In the present environment, it’s incumbent on citizens of all persuasions to support basic truth-telling, but doubly so for any organization that promotes the arts. If artists won’t tell the truth, they can’t claim to create (or support) art that is worthy.

Art suffers when truth isn’t received or valued. Communities die when it isn’t told or understood. The truth may be hard to hear, even painful, but it’s where we begin in order to grow, create art and find meaning. Because the truth is hard to hear, the arts community is often the first victim when truth itself is discarded.

Art, at its core, tells the truth. Artistic performances across our country, on every stage, communicate deep emotional and artistic truths difficult to articulate in any other medium. To cite two modern examples, Toni Morrison’s acclaimed novel Beloved opened literary eyes to the realities of American slavery and inspired new portrayals of that reality across our political landscape. Picasso’s painting Guernica similarly opened eyes to the destruction then taking place in the Spanish Civil War. Artists are heralds and interpreters of the truth. As Aristotle tells us, “The aim of art is to represent, not [merely] the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”

As we take up the banner of truth, it may be painful and difficult to hear, but we’re proud to be part of a long tradition of similarly minded artists and thinkers. Alexander Solzhenitsyn communicated ardently the value of truth in our time. The truth, he said, as expressed by an artist, can defeat any lie: “One word of truth outweighs the whole world.” It’s worth noting the Nobel Prize winner gave this speech from a distance, as he was not allowed to leave the Soviet Union to accept it. His country was too afraid of his artistic truth.

Our own culture today is afraid of truth. This time is pivotal for American democracy, so we’re glad our community was able to come together to hear facts about U.S. elections and the ongoing attack on our freedom. By embracing this event, we upheld the role of truth in American life. We supported a shared, civic culture that can understand and embrace the deeper truths communicated each day by its artists. We were gratified to see five community organizations including The Washington Center for the Performing Arts step forward to help us create an event that provided the truth and nothing but the truth for our corner of the American public.


The Mueller Report, Volume I


1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24


The Washington Center for the Performing Arts,

512 Washington St. SE, Olympia






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