Supporting the Arts — and Liberty Too

Several years ago I stood in a doorway at the back of our sanctuary with my pastor as he remarked, “You can see the health of a church in its music.”

He did not mean the singing or the playing. He was referring to the creating.

We were listening to the band rehearse a new song written by members of the congregation, and he was describing the importance of this act. It was an act of making something new that comes, in large part, from a place deep down in the soul of a person, where utilitarian calculation and empirical research and rational argument are stripped away, where you are left with a bare aesthetic vision of the world. Fundamental visions of basic good, bad, beautiful, ugly, pleasurable, hurtful.

That day my pastor was commenting on how beautiful must be the deep inner places of those two individuals for a song so lovely and poignant to emerge from them. It was a clear blush of health for our church to have attracted and nurtured people with such a place inside them.

Art in all its forms, when it’s good, comes from this inner place. It is why, when it’s good, art is so persuasive and powerful. We turn our eyes and ears to art and artists because, when they’re good, their work feels deeply true.

This truth in art comes from opening up that raw inner space to outsiders. It feels true not because we necessarily agree with it, but because we are exposed to and respond to the artist’s reality. We empathize with people, like the couple at my church, who put their creations into the world while risking comment and criticism at least, mockery and disdain at worst.

They risk because these creations, at least in some small part, represent that deepest, most personal and true place inside the creator. And that deepest place might not be lovely or skillful, it might be plain and clumsy. It might not be smart and insightful, it might be dull and derivative.

It can be terrifying to believe you have something beautiful and important to express, but that even after you put in the blood, sweat, and tears to create that expression, you may discover that the world hates what you did, thinks you’re ridiculous, or maybe just doesn’t care at all. Why put in the effort?

On the other hand, a creation might be lovely, skilled, smart, insightful, and it may lauded by all the world, but it may represent deepest beliefs that are not beautiful and important — they may in fact be so wrong as to be harmful in the world.

Harmful creations like this do not lose their power to persuade just because they promote a poor vision of the world. Regardless of their hatefulness or dangerous disconnect from reality, when a worldview comes from that deepest truest place in a person, and comes through a talented and trained artist, its influence can be overwhelming.

We all have values that inform our aesthetic vision of a good world; what we see as beautiful and important. I’m also certain we can all point to art in the world we find antithetical to our values. However, like my pastor did that day, do you see beautiful and important works of art being produced in the world around you? Powerful, persuasive works that support your vision of a good world?

If you do… Where are they and are you helping others find them?

If you do not… Do you have resources or connections to help artists and organizations to develop the skills and capacities to create the next generation of aspirational, challenging, entertaining, educational, and beautifying artworks?

Our company’s slogan is PROTECTING CREATORSSM because our team has the privilege to work with artistic contributors every day. From films, to live events, and many more, we get to listen to their dreams and then do our very small part (providing insurance and risk management) assisting them to bring their ideas into the real world.

As a rule, our work takes us from coast to coast, without much concentration of clientele. Thus it was to our great surprise that two years ago in June we discovered that five clients would all be screening new projects at the same film festival. That festival was Anthem at the 2016 FreedomFest.

With less than a month’s notice, and little knowledge of FreedomFest itself, we tacked four days onto the front end of a planned family vacation (two-year-old in tow!) in order to see why so many of our clients were showing projects at this little film festival in Las Vegas.

We didn’t actually buy tickets to attend FreedomFest that year (though I heard from friends and saw later in video that 2016 was a year with some contentious moments). Instead, we were two of only about a dozen people who purchased the FilmLovers Pass to just attend Anthem.

What we found in that little theater were project after project making deep visceral impacts. At times informative and funny like Ted Balaker’s “Can We Take A Joke?” or John Papola and Bradley Jackson’s “Lov Gov,” and other times powerful and heart wrenching like Matthew Szewczyk’s “The Return” or Michael Ozias’ “Of Dogs and Men,” this festival touched an impressive spectrum of emotions and topics, while showcasing work from both seasoned professionals and emerging filmmakers.

Better yet, what we saw in that theater were deeply talented artists presenting work of the highest quality that was beautiful, important, and true to principles and values that we hold dear. An aesthetic vision of a good world that rejects force and violence against peaceful people, and celebrates freedom, exchange, and human flourishing.

Just as my pastor felt all those years ago, and even amidst the rancor of the 2016 presidential election, we saw art created by friends, colleagues, and strangers who have a passion for a free society, and we felt a blush of health for the liberty movement. We saw professionals willing and able to present a meaningful, caring, reasonable, but above all else beautiful vision of free people.

For this reason, the following year in 2017, Neil Benton Arts & Entertainment joined with Jo Ann and the FreedomFest team as sponsors of the Anthem Film Festival. Then, on the heels of another great festival that year including hits such as “Little Pink House” and “Mama Rwanda,” we recommitted and increased our support for 2018.

If you want to see the health of the liberty movement, I suggest you look to its artists. Many of the best are filmmakers. And if you want to ensure the impact of your dollars invested or donated, look to the same.

You have a unique opportunity to engage with these artists and the organizations that support them this year at the Anthem Film Festival. I hope you will take advantage of it as we have.

For FilmLovers Passes to Anthem or a full ticket to FreedomFest go to or call 1-855-850-3733 ext 202.

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