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Cover Story: Lawyers & the Arts

by Joel Harvey Slomsky

Summer 2000, Vol. 63, No. 2

About six months ago, while driving down the Avenue of the Arts-Broad Street south of City Hall, where a festive atmosphere can now permeate the senses even on a cold, misty night-my thoughts turned to the transformation occurring in the arts community in Philadelphia. Creativity and energy seem to be everywhere!

On any given Friday, The Philadelphia Inquirer's "Guide to the Lively Arts" contains ten to twelve newspaper columns listing dozens of artistic events under headings such as concerts, opera, pop-rock, theater, classical music, dance, comedy, film, jazz and family theater. I wondered how this cultural revolution that has enhanced Philadelphia's national image not only as an historical city but also as a cultural destination had happened and who was responsible for it.

My curiosity to find answers has culminated in this issue of The Philadelphia Lawyer magazine. For not only is this current artistic revolution a product of talented artists and performers and the wisdom of enlightened political leaders and philanthropists, but it is also the result of the participation of an army of lawyers who have volunteered their time and professional skills to nurture and advise many artists and cultural organizations that contribute immensely to the quality of life in our community.

This issue celebrates, yes, even applauds, Philadelphia lawyers' volunteerism in the arts. Legal minds knew long ago that a society that fosters the arts and provides legal protection to the work-product of artists also promotes the spirit of liberty and the orderly growth of society. One place where liberty can begin is in the hearts and minds of people who need a protected yet free outlet of expression while they are transforming to tangible form the fruits of their inspiration and imagination.

These notions were well known to the founding fathers who gathered in Philadelphia to draft a constitution. A large number of them were lawyers. In Article I, Section VIII, clause 8, the founders encouraged artistic development by including the precept that Congress shall have the power "to promote . . . the useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries."

American culture and its artistic advancements have been considerably influenced by this one clause and its symbolic presence.

Since the Constitution's passage in 1789, lawyers have been at the forefront of practically every movement to give artists the freedom to produce, protect and permit their artistic creations to be freely accessible to the public as a source of pleasure and delight. In many ways, progress in the arts reflects the advancement of a civilization.

Studies have shown that a strong cultural presence leads to population growth, new commercial activity and a decline in poverty. Philadelphia has reaped these rewards and lawyers with their pervasive presence in the arts have been silent partners in attaining these benefits. Recently, a seminar on balancing life and the law in the new millennium sought to answer the question, "How do you fulfill long-forgotten personal and professional goals even in the midst of daily pressures and demands?" William Shakespeare, the great Bard and wordsmith, emphasized the importance of this question four hundred years ago in Act 3, Scene 1 of The Taming of the Shrew by postulating:

"Preposterous ass, that never read so far
To know the cause why music was ordain'd!
Was it not to refresh the mind of man
After his studies or his usual pain?"

Finding nourishment for the soul apart from the daily practice of law is indispensable to a balanced, harmonious spirit.

Many lawyers have improved their quality of life through membership on the boards of various artistic organizations, providing patronage and subscribing to their events, even occasionally performing and giving artistic input. The Philadelphia Bar Association's Music and Theatre Wing's public performances of Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial By Jury and the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (PVLA) are just two examples of lawyer participation in the arts community. As a membership benefit, those who join the Bar Association receive a pARTnership card, which offers discounts and savings at more than thirty-five Philadelphia-area cultural institutions. (See sidebar on page 58.) The program was developed by PVLA and the Bar Association and sponsored by Colburn Insurance Service.

I marvel at the alliance between attorneys and the arts community. My hope is that lawyers will be motivated by the articles appearing in this issue of The Philadelphia Lawyer to nourish their souls and contribute to the community through meaningful involvement in the arts. The Philadelphia area is culturally rich. An exposure to this abundance-even from a short car ride down the Avenue of the Arts-may be just the spark to ignite your own passion for the arts!