Every once in a while I remind myself about what the arts teach. This way of learning is integrated so well into who I am that I often forget. I lived this life for a long time and so to me much is taken for granted. When I hear a young accomplished performer talk about his art, I remember and am again inspired. The concepts of discipline and deliberate practice are embedded in the fabric of my self and how I do things. I attribute this discipline to the arts.
Every child deserves an opportunity to learn and experience all the arts. Art is everywhere around us. It took art to design the building you are in right now. Someone designed the furniture. Another chose the colors. We hear music everywhere, so much that we may not be aware of it all the time. Advertisements on television, online and in print are all the culmination of creative pursuits. Everything online has a visual or artistic component. We dance for fun but at the same time it is a personal expression of the music we hear. It feels good to listen, to look and to take part.
The arts are inherent to our culture. Museums offer a chance to view great works of art and to learn about history and science. We go to the movies for entertainment while movies use all the arts to engage. Self expression and communication are innate to our needs as a human beings. Children need to experience the arts as participators and as observers. They need to see what a concert violinist or a concert pianist does. They need to see American Ballet Theatre as well as Kanye West. Not only do students need to draw, paint, write and express themselves, but also observe and analyze the work of Rodin, Picasso, Rembrandt and Shakespeare. Partaking as well as observing builds the ability to discern, appreciate and critically think. It builds an understanding of history, society and culture. It helps us realize where we are and how we got there.
I have done it all in the arts as a young person. My abilities in assorted media varied, but the exposure to them has brought depth and expression to my life. Exploring the arts allowed me to explore my humanity and be able to better express myself. The arts are the same as offering practical opportunities to students for STEM/STEAM learning. If you don’t expose a child to these disciplines, how will you know if there is talent or potential? Experiencing the world with a broad perspective that is beyond what facts students should know and be able to do, inspires innovation and creativity. Who knows what will be discovered? The next great Pavlova? Einstein? Picasso? Or perhaps simply a great appreciator who is better for having experienced.
As a society we need to rethink our perspective. We need to see the arts as essential and to use them to better the lives and education of our children. There is a “crisis” in education to some degree. Students are falling behind in math and science and lower socio-economic schools have less opportunities for the arts. Even schools with arts programs are not rigorous with only one class a week. Let’s make this crisis an opportunity for learning.
Below are video excerpts from Alec Baldwin’s Nancy Hanks lecture on Arts and Public Policy given as part of Arts Advocacy Day on April 16, 2012 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He says, “Art is like water. It’s essential. And I am honored to be here with all of you to carry the water on behalf of the arts again in 2012.” http://blog.artsusa.org/2012/04/23/more-clips-from-alec-baldwin-art-is-like-water-its-essential/
An additional article about Baldwin’s speech: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/united-states/arts-beyond-essential-to-culture-says-alec-baldwin-223261.html
A discussion from young performing artists on the Melissa Harris Perry show Sunday May 7, 2012: