Arts for All
| Jun 25, 2013
The hit comedy TV show, Everybody Loves Raymond, made us laugh for a good part of a decade. Created by Phil Rosenthal, the show found humor in everyday family situations. Phil and his wife, Monica, are still making us smile through their support of arts education. The Rosenthal Foundation is part of Arts for All’s Pooled Fund. We chatted with Monica Rosenthal about why arts education is so important to them.
AFA: How did you and Phil first get exposed to the arts as children?
MR: Phil grew up outside of New York City and his family regularly took him to Manhattan to see shows. (Side note: He went to see Zero Mostel as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway. ‘Tevye’ started improvising and the six-year old Phil was disappointed that Zero didn't stick to the songs as they were written. He was destined to be a writer, I guess!)
Phil's mother had opera playing in the house at every opportunity, and his father had been the tummler (Yiddish word for joke-teller) of the family. Being involved in theater at Clarkstown North High School really had a profound impact on his life, leading him to pursue a life in the arts.
I had a similar upbringing. My mother enrolled me in "pantomime" class at five years old, which led to ballet lessons for the next ten years. I participated in the Dance Troupe at Archbishop Prendergast High School in PA. When I was cast in my first high school play in a comedic role, I knew I wanted to pursue theatre (actually, I wanted to be Carol Burnett). A friend encouraged me to participate in a publicly-funded program called Upper Darby SummerStage. It was there that I gained the experience and developed the relationships with people that encouraged me to take my SATs and apply to college. I eventually graduated with a degree in theater from Hofstra University. Just like Phil!
AFA: As parents, how do you expose your children to the arts?
MR: Our house is filled with photographs and paintings, many made by people in our lives. In addition, our kids are lucky in that they have two parents who work in the arts. They grew up visiting the set of Everybody Loves Raymond. They also had the opportunity to have art in their schools, where they were exposed to drawing, painting and music. They were given opportunities to dance and act in school from a very early age.
AFA: Have you used the arts to teach your children life lessons?
Our kids watched our lives become a sitcom. That made it easy to find humor in life. And the most beautiful part of being human is the ability to create something funny or beautiful or cathartic through the arts in any form, whether it be comedy, drama, dance, painting, sculpture...whatever floats your boat!
AFA: Can you share a great arts ed moment about your kids that might have had a profound effect on them?
MR: They’ve had the opportunity to work with kids at Inner-City Arts and assist on a project at my friend, Julie Tuomi's, kindergarten class at Frank Del Olmo Elementary School. Both of those experiences made them appreciate the opportunities for learning through the arts that they had in their education. They have seen, first hand, kids who are quiet and insecure (many second language learners) come into their own through these experiences. And they are aware that these experiences could very easily go away without continued arts education support.
AFA: Why is arts education part of your philanthropic giving?
MR: Phil says it's all about sharing. "This is a really good cookie. I love this cookie. I want you to have a bite of this cookie, too!" It's hard for us to understand that we live in a city that was built on the arts, where people's lives are most obviously impacted by the arts, and yet, the arts were cut from the schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (even though it's been proven that children stay in school and are more successful in their studies when the arts are part of the core curriculum).
We believe the arts are a big part of the answer to many of the problems in Los Angeles' public schools. Personally, I would not have been the first person in my family to graduate college were it not for a publicly funded arts program. And I have seen, first-hand, "at risk" public high school children transform their limited opportunities into bright futures as a result of participating in programs we've had the opportunity to support.
Every kid deserves a full functioning education, and we are committed to doing all we can to make that happen in our amazing city. Our funding of Arts for All is a reflection of this commitment. We wanted to support a county-wide effort to follow through on the County Supervisors’ vision to make the arts a vital part of the core curriculum.
AFA: Do you feel that arts education is gaining momentum in the public’s eye? If so, why?
MR: Hopefully yes. But we have to join with like-minded folks in our industry to ensure it gets the attention it deserves. We are living in a time when the world is changing rapidly. For the United States to be competitive going forward, we are going to need a new generation of leadership and a workforce that is creative, that has the ability to problem solve so they can see multiple perspectives and is excited about learning. Arts education is key to all of those things.
Every study shows the power of arts education. Phil and I are examples of what arts education can do. Those who work in the creative sector in Los Angeles know this more than anyone. Even companies like Boeing are championing arts education because they know that to get the kind of engineers they will need in the future, arts education has to be vibrant and valued.
Now we just need to get the word out to more people.