CONGRATULATIONS EORAC, ON 25YEARS

April 15, 2002 12:00 am

Some people like to recite the old joke, The only culture here is down at the creamery. The Eastern Oregon Regional Arts Council, headquartered in La Grande and serving all of Eastern Oregon, has done a lot to improve accessibility to arts and culture in the region.

Throughout April, EORAC is celebrating serving the region for a quarter century. Part of the celebration included bringing the Oregon Symphony to the area for workshops, classes and a major performance at McKenzie Theatre. The Obo Addy African drumming concert coming April 21 is also part of the festivities.

FROM TEACHER training and artist workshops to residencies and community arts programs, EORAC has many irons in the fire as it attempts to continually improve its service to the region. Other new and soon to be developed offerings include an interactive Web site filled with arts news and opportunities to participate in chat rooms. The Web site will also include chances to learn about grant information for artists and art organizations. EORAC is also committed to work in partnership with communities and schools to bring in artists and art classes for youth and families. In these times of strained budgets,

EORAC promotes keeping art and hands-on opportunities as an integral part of public education.

Congratulations, EORAC and the people too numerous to mention instrumental in your success, for bringing culture to Northeast Oregon and keeping us in seven hours from anywhereland from being so isolated. All the art forms EORAC has sponsored visual, dance, theater, writing and more have enriched and added value to our lives.

FREE SPEECH ZONES

The First Amendment shouldnt be tossed because it makes us uncomfortable, wrote Linda Campbell, columnist for the Forth Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram. Added Allen H. Neuharth at The Freedom Forum, Freedom comes at a hell of a price. It is not guaranteed. It is fragile. It must be constantly championed or defended.

STUDENTS AT WEST Virginia University are learning just that. The university is among several across America that have established free expression areas to try to restrict protests to certain areas of campus. The policy says reservations must be made 24 hours in advance of demonstrations. Supporters say the policy helps ensure a safe, healthy learning environment. Opponents say the policy undermines the constitutional guarantee of free speech and assembly.

A university should be a place that promotes an open, exuberant exchange of ideas. Free speech should be available anyplace, anywhere. You cannot have free speech on 1 percent of a campus and muzzled speech on the rest of a campus any more than you can have free speech in 1 percent of a city or country. The West Virginia students are right to consider the consequences of being muzzled. They are right to stand up for the freedoms that make America strong and vibrant. Each of us as Americans have a collective responsibility to society to be as brave and vocal as the students in our defense of free speech.