Hello <<First Name>>,
I’m delighted to share this February 2017 edition of Arts Awareness E-Newsletter with you. I sincerely hope you find it helpful as you play an active role in all your creative efforts. Please feel free to share it with others who might be interested, and if you know someone who may want to receive this newsletter monthly, please let them know how to sign up through www.artsawareness.com.
Why the Arts Matter
About 20 years ago I met a young musician who told me a story I’ll never forget. If you have ever wondered about the value of the arts—especially the process of performing music, dance, or theater, or making visual art—her story shows how the arts provide an opportunity to learn how to live a more creative and successful life. Students, families, and impassioned, innovative, thriving communities can grow with the guidance of teachers and artists who are deeply connected to the potential of the arts to provide comprehensive and relevant 21st century skill sets. This matters because our children—in fact all of us—are facing an increasingly challenging world that changes every day. It’s a world that’s asking us to think in new ways.
The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source
and through such experience to discover the range and variety
of what we are capable of feeling.
~ Elliot W. Eisner, former Stanford Professor and champion of arts education
Emily’s story changed my life. She grew up in a remote area and lived with her father and brothers. It was a strict household with rules that didn’t allow her to express herself or interact with other people. She was self-conscious and quiet, and she struggled to find a way to break her silence. But after she started school, a teacher got her interested in music. She was encouraged to take beginning band in 5th grade, and her life changed forever. She took her school flute home on the long bus ride every day and found a place far from the house where she could practice. In just a few months, her teachers were shocked. Her flute playing improved, but she also started to speak in full sentences; she asked questions and volunteered answers. These were things she’d never done before. Although she was still shy, she laughed and connected with other people. Her grades improved dramatically, and that kind of growth continued all the way through high school.
When I met Emily, she was eighteen years old, and she told me how she learned through music to understand every member of her family and to love all of them no matter their attitudes or rules. Music helped her find her own voice and to muster the strength to move forward and understand how to find freedom even within her strict family structure. While this is an incredible story, Emily is one of many people over the past thirty years who have shared similar stories of the creative consciousness that came from learning to create and perform art. My contention is that we simply can’t afford to ignore the value of well-taught arts experiences in our schools and communities. If we don’t value arts experiences of all kinds, we’re disregarding a comprehensive and relevant set of skills that can lead to a successful and more meaningful life. We can all benefit from learning through the arts and the opportunity to experience an invigorating depth of awareness in our own hearts and souls.
Art is the triumph over chaos.
~ John Cheever, American novelist and short story writer
This doesn’t mean that everyone must choose music or art or theater or dance as a career. Rather, it means that the knowledge you can gain in the process of learning the art form is invaluable to your life experience.
Elliot Eisner, who was a leading scholar of arts education, maintained that the arts are critically important to the development of thinking skills in children and that the arts might offer teachers both a powerful guide and critical tool in their practice. There are many extrinsic benefits to an arts education; but in his Ten Lessons the Arts Teach, he speaks to what the arts intrinsically do for students.
At the same time, the arts can help everyone realize their potential. Approaching arts learning from a broad and deep perspective allows everyone to learn to use the knowledge they gain in other ways. Our minds tend to expand by seeing in one thing something else that’s even more meaningful.
One of many things Emily’s experience allowed her to see is how passion and a sense of discipline coexist. She learned that even the most passionate artistic expression has to have an underlying sense of order. The arts can help all of us learn to live with freedom, yet with order.
Painting is a means of self-enlightenment.
~ John Olsen, Australian artist