How art and arts education may just be our hope for tomorrow
You gotta love art. Maybe your groove is opera, or hip hop, or sculpture, or street art. Whatever moves you, art has an uncanny way of getting us out of the everyday humdrum existence and making us laugh, or cry, or scratch our collective heads, or - sometimes - even stir us to action. I love that.
The way of the artist is a hodgepodge concoction of skill, practice, passion, voice, point of view, all mixed up with a heaping dose of courage (if you’ve ever shared your own creation, you know what I’m talking about!) The thing is — the act of art-making can begin in any of these places and develops and builds as it progresses through them. It can start with a skill-based lesson on a technique, with space to express one’s own truth without boundaries, or in a collaboration with others to imagine together. That is why the arts, and arts education, are so critical. It is also why it cannot be an add-on in our current manifestations of schooling, related to an extra curricular fluff activity, or a curriculum provided only to the affluent.
If we are to work our way out of our current political and social quagmire, arts education is absolutely essential to prepare our kids to be tomorrow’s leaders who have the stuff to approach the problems before them with creativity, compassion, collaboration, and imagination. I don’t know about you, but I sure want my leaders of tomorrow to have those skills in spades. Yes, please. All of that.
Our schools are, and must be, institutions steeped in literacy, mathematics, science, and history. And art. I would argue that the arts don’t replace those curricular areas, but they breathe life into them. Approaching writing or the scientific process with imagination, relentless collaboration, and the kind of playful tinkering that produces results we might have never imagined are the skills that the art infuses into our world — and into our schools.
Add to that a sense of beauty and imagination, and it is not difficult to understand what arts provides us that makes our world better. We can’t have enough of that. It is why I have often said that arts education is a civil rights issue. This kind of courageous creativity, innovation, and creation are the birthright of every child and we must fight to ensure that a comprehensive education is steeped just as strongly in the arts as it is with the traditional academic disciplines. One without the other is marginal, pale and unlovely.
And with all of the creativity, healing, and passion needed to see us through our current national crises of a pandemic, systemic racism, and challenges to the core fabric of the American experiment, we need leaders of tomorrow who have the courage, conviction, and passion to be fierce creators, passionate innovators, and courageous leaders.
The arts provide guideposts on the path to that kind of future for all of our kids.