As I mentioned in my first blog post, I grew up taking art classes. They meant the world to me. I still participated in other activities — I played soccer from the age of 5 until my sophomore year of high school, I was on the newspaper staff and editor for the literary magazine. But my heart was truly in the many, many art classes I took over the years. I spent all my free time in the art rooms, glazing ceramic sculptures and learning how to draw from life. Even outside of school, I took many classes through the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. To this day, I believe that my education in the arts fully shaped the person I became. I remember many nights spent forging forward to get my science and math homework done so that I could get on to finishing my self-portrait, keeping up good grades so that I could continue with my music lessons, involvement in the thespian troupe (I won best play of the year for my position as student director in the production of Blood Brothers!), and get courses out of the way to free up more time to take electives (all my art classes).
I can’t even imagine what would’ve happened had the art program at school been cut due to funding. It upsets me to see important programs like that as the first things to go from underfunded public schools here in Chicago — these students are missing out on vital lessons on thinking outside the box, left with no motivation for creative expression. It will stunt their mental growth. Just check out these facts:
- The arts are one of the six subject areas in which the College Board recognizes as essential in order to thrive in college. (Source: Academic Preparation for College: What Students Need to Know and Be Able to Do, 1983 [still in use], The College Board, New York ).
- Arts Education has a measurable impact on at-risk youth in deterring delinquent behavior and truancy problems while also increasing overall academic performance among those youth engaged in after school and summer arts programs targeted toward delinquency prevention. (YouthARTS Development Project, 1996, U.S. Department of Justice, National Endowment for the Arts, and Americans for the Arts)
- Arts Education helps all students develop more appreciation and understanding of the world around them (Business Circle for Arts Education in Oklahoma, “Arts at the Core of Learning 1999 Initiative”)
- Arts Education aids students in skills needed in the workplace: flexibility, the ability to solve problems and communicate; the ability to learn new skills, to be creative and innovative, and to strive for excellence. (Source: Joseph M. Calahan, Director of Corporate Communications, Xerox. Corporation)
So, what can you do to save the arts in your community? Volunteer to teach children’s arts and craft classes, write to your senator and urge them to support a funding increase for the National Endowment for the Arts to help support the arts in under-served communities, or donate to and/or join Americans for the Arts, the leading non-profit organization for advancing arts in our world. Make a difference in a child’s life!