As we celebrate National Youth Art Month, the Arts Council is shouting as loud and as strong as we can…“SUPPORT YOUNG CREATIVES!” The value of arts education in our schools is so important, and I know that many of you have probably seen how art can change a child’s life…perhaps your own. Our role as adults and leaders in the capital region is to continually encourage children to express themselves though the rigorous discipline of an artistic medium—whether through dance, music, visual art, theatre, creative writing, and/or media arts. Our role is also to advocate to our schools the importance of arts- based, sequential instruction as a part of the core curriculum at all levels.
But why is arts education so important to 21st century learning? I think that the report entitled “Champions for Change” that was published by the Arts Education Partnership and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, sums up the importance of arts education in five very simple statements:
1) The arts transform the learning environment. When the arts become central to the learning environment, schools and other settings become places of discovery; school culture is changed, and learning is improved.
The arts reach students who are not otherwise being reached. Young people who are disengaged from schools and other community institutions are at the greatest risk of failure or harm. The arts provide a reason, and sometimes the only reason, for a student to engage with school or other organizations.
The arts reach students in ways they are not otherwise being reached. Recent educational research has produced insights into different styles of learning. The theory of multiple intelligences illustrates that students learn in myriad ways: linguistically, logically, spatially, kinesthetically, etc. This means that conventional classroom practices do not engage students with different learning styles. An education rich in the arts is more likely to reach more students in more ways.
The arts connect students to themselves and others. Creating an artwork is a personal experience. The student draws upon his or her personal resources to generate the result. By engaging his or her whole person, the student feels invested in ways that are deeper than “knowing the answer.” Experiences such as this engage young people to grow and connect with one another in new ways.
The arts provide new challenges for those students already considered successful. Boredom and complacency are barriers to success. For those young people who outgrow their established learning environments, the arts can offer a chance for unlimited challenge. It is refreshing to re-read such important statements and to digest them once again – they offer a strong reminder of those that will come after us and who will be leading our community in years to come.But I know that I am preaching to the choir—those who already believe that arts education has value. This month, however, is our opportunity to spread the message further—SUPPORT YOUNG CREATIVES! And here’s what you can do: Get involved—volunteer your time and resources at our schools or community arts organizations. Tell your elected officials, school board members and any others why arts education is important. Increase visibility of the issue—write a letter to the editor, coordinate a fundraiser. Talk to school leaders—testify at school board meetings, start conversations with principals and teachers. Help find solutions to incorporate more arts into the core curriculum and keep arts in the schools.In celebration of Youth Art Month, the Arts Council is excited to feature the works of four student artists from the region on billboards around the tri-counties. We are thankful for the support of the Michigan State Federal Credit Union and Adams Outdoor Advertising for their part in making this happen for our students who are all thrilled beyond measure to see their art in the sky!
Deborah E. Mikula