From Our Archive
This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

Pharrell Williams: The Future Depends On Protecting the Arts Now

The musician, Creative Director of the Platinum Card® and DEPARTURES guest editor on the importance of fostering creativity in schools for a brighter tomorrow.

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In America we place the most importance on athletics in schools. And then academics. The arts get dismissed. But everything you wear, everything you sit on, any building you’re in, any piece of tech you use—that was someone’s creation. That was someone’s epiphany. Every tangible thing came from the mind of an artist.

That’s why I believe we have to support institutions that offer the infrastructure for young people to hone their crafts and develop skills, to learn to express their ideas. These things need to be protected. And artists have to feel that their imaginations are not a distraction. They need places for their minds to be sponges. Because those minds are going to be the ones to save the world one day.

You’re born with instincts. My instinct was music. And I would not be the artist I am today without all my teachers—Mr. Warren, Mrs. Warren, Mr. Sharps. If I hadn’t been exposed to all kinds of music or made to play “Flight of the Bumblebee” or taught how to put a sentence together correctly, I wouldn’t be here. As a parent, I want my kids to have that same opportunity, to be part of a school system that looks out for people regardless of their background or their parents’ income level. But this isn’t really about my children, because we’re fortunate. I want that access to education for all children.

When people read this issue, I hope they understand the value of empathy. Now is the time to make a gesture of goodwill, and it’s time to do it in ways that challenge each other. Because when you donate and pledge in the dark, yes, you are still helping, but when people see it, they will get inspired and get involved. It’s time for people to have a voice.

Discover more stories about how the arts are changing the world.

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