CHRISTINA LESSA: At FLATT we believe that Art in all its intellectual guises is the scaffold of change. Please share your opinion on the Artist’s current role in society as the world begins to reshape itself in the 21st century:

TONY BENNETT: I believe the Artist’s role is the same today as it has always been, even as the world around us changes. As an artist I feel my mission it to seek out truth and beauty, and by doing so, remind us of our shared humanity. To be an artist is to be an interpreter. That was the case in Michelangelo’s time and it remains true today and great art and artists transcend the centuries.

CHRISTINA LESSA: In this country we are certainly in a state of confusion, but also one of transition. The creatively aware are greatly in need of representation. The role of the public intellect is very important. Who do you think the great intellectual / creative voices of America are now?

TONY BENNETT: The world will always have writers, poets, artists and musicians who will show us the nobility of the human spirit because that is the essence of our creativity – art is our window to humanity. Each of us has to seek out those voices that speak to who we are on both an artistic and intellectual level…rather than being told by others: “This is who you need to pay attention to.”

CHRISTINA LESSA: With the onslaught of Media-driven portrayals of the economic crisis and the growing public disconnect with governmental policy, we are living in what appears to be “the surrealism of real life”, yet artistic expression is gaining momentum despite lack of support. Your personal efforts to foster a new kind of American arts education have been outstanding… can you tell us more about that?

TONY BENNETT: Artists are essential in society always, but we need them most of all during times of crisis. Their expression help give voice to the voiceless, and they uplift our spirits. In these modern times of fear and war and economic turmoil, we need beauty. We need love. We need compassion. That is why the focus of my charitable work has been arts education. I am saddened to see the arts programs get cut from our public schools. Children not only need the opportunity to explore their own creativity and develop their talents, but they need to learn about their cultural heritage. America’s artistic legacy must be preserved in our schools.

CHRISTINA LESSA: You are an artist who’s work is a symbol of creative expression and your public opinion is often one of political courage. Your dedication to arts education speaks to the possibility that the power of art and free creative expression could re-shape the world. You have mentored many younger artists in their pursuit of success and given countless commentaries on the value of maintaining ones honest voice and self respect in the face of adversity. With all that you have seen and participated in over the years and the rapid onset of social media and other information based technologies…Do you feel we are just playing the same game with a new set of tools or do you feel the age of Google and twitter is the time when we will finally get it right for the majority of humanity? What has been the effect of these tools on your ability to express your creativity?

TONY BENNETT: Well, my favorite technology is still a pencil but there is no doubt that today’s advances in technology have been extraordinary. I know for myself that on my iPad I have an app that allows me to view all the art in every museum in the world. This is a wonderful thing since it allows increased exposure to the arts for many who may never be able to view it all in person. But regardless of technological advances used to create and deliver artistic endeavors, the message of art still comes from us and therefore the responsibility as artists remains where it always has – in our hearts and in our souls.

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