The arts are a central part of the human experience

In communities around the country educators, artists, parents and community leaders are working to create meaningful, sustainable arts education in our schools. Why are so many dedicating themselves to assuring that the arts are a part of the education of all our children?

Throughout history people have recorded their struggles, their dreams and their lives in works of art. Young people cannot participate in the human conversation or have a true understanding of human history without engaging in the study of the arts. The arts are as basic to enlightened citizenship as understanding the workings of numbers, words, and history.

The arts provide languages for shaping and expressing our understandings.

Whether we think of the arts as languages, forms of intelligence or learning modalities, most educators agree that the arts can engage diverse learners and provide them with opportunities to share what they know.

The arts help develop capacities and attitudes central to learning and to life

Engagement in attending to or creating a work of art develops the imagination, which Maxine Green tells us is “the capacity to see things as if they could be otherwise”. Surely this is a crucial capacity for those who will shape the future. Imagination makes empathy possible, because to understand another we must be able to imagine living their life.

To work in the arts, students are required to think critically, pose problems and make decisions, central capacities in all of learning.

Students who participate regularly in the arts develop self-confidence. They see themselves as capable of doing work that is personally satisfying and publicly acknowledged. Because serious work in the arts requires persistence, students develop self-discipline and come to understand what it means to make multiple revisions to achieve high standards. Because so many art forms are collaborative in nature, students often develop the crucial ability to work on a common project with others. It is because of these relations between the arts and the development of self-esteem that so may arts educators say that the arts save lives.

The arts bring us joy

All who have participated in the arts for any length of time talk about the pleasure they found in making and looking at works of art. We know that we can no longer divide the cognitive and affective aspects of learning that when we feel joy we learn more easily and more effectively. The arts can bring joy to learning and make schools more vibrant places.