Column | A Lost Art: Funding Creativity

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A few weeks ago, I saw something that deeply perturbed me. There were students with signs reading “save our band” standing on Stockton Hill Road. They were trying to direct traffic to their car wash, which I can only assume was a fundraiser.

I remember doing the same fundraisers when I was in high school. Every summer, the band, choir and drama classes would host a car wash to raise funds for things like competitions and travel expenses.

However, the realization hit me. If these students are out here, something similar to what happened at my school is happening in Kingman: funding is being cut toward the arts programs.

I will fully disclose I have a bias toward these programs. I was in band for eight years (5th- through 12th-grade), choir and drama for one, and art for one. And that doesn’t include the five years of mandatory choir in elementary school, or the two years of mandatory art. I took a few art classes while attending university as well, and my family has a history of artists and musicians.

So, to see funding continue to disappear from these programs is hard, especially when the arts are something that shape us and make us well-rounded, cultured and human. Without the arts, there would be no “Star Spangled Banner” or Mona Lisa or Statue of Liberty. The greats such as Michelangelo and Da Vinci wouldn’t have created masterpieces. The artifacts that we have to study history wouldn’t exist.

These are all extreme examples, sure, but the point is the same.

The arts provide an education that math and science simply cannot. Cultural experiences such as wandering through a museum improve students’ knowledge and desire to consume the arts.

Studies have been done to try and combat these funding losses, and to prove that art education is not only beneficial for the students, but also education in general.

Experiments conducted by “Education Week” suggest that exposure to the arts makes students more tolerant and empathetic, and increases their critical thinking skills. It is suspected that this is because they are exposed to different people, places and ideas through arts.

John Hopkins University and the Dana Foundation hosted a panel that discussed neuroeducation and the arts. They mentioned one four-year study where students undertaking regular music training were found to have changes in their brain structures helping them transfer their motor skills to similar areas. Another found students motivated to practice a specific art form and spent time with focused attention increased the efficiency of their attention network as a whole, even when working in other areas of study – and it improved their fluid IQ scores. Other studies reported similar scientific findings on the arts’ impact on the brain, showing that sustained arts education can be an essential part of social and intellectual development.

Every year, policy makers and school leaders are focusing less on the arts and more on easily measured achievement – such as math and reading proficiency. This isn’t a bad approach, by any means, but arts education is just as important.

Children can discover their talents and interests through the arts. They may even eventually go on to seek further education in artistic fields. Too often these passions are overshadowed. Parents, educators, peers and so many others will sometimes even discourage those passions. Rather than encouraging students to take music lessons, they force them to take advanced math. Or persuade them into degrees that students have no passion for. It doesn’t always happen overtly either.

Promoting and encouraging students to participate in the arts is not only supportive, but also beneficial. Children in the arts learn to take small steps, practicing to get better at something, being persistent and being patient in the face of adversity. They gain confidence as they accomplish things that don’t come easily – like being able to play 32nd notes.

The arts help young people develop character. It aids them in learning habits, behaviors and attitudes necessary in any field of endeavor.

Art affects everyone, every single day. We see it in the photos we take and post to Instagram, we see it in the posters that decorate our halls, or the music we listen to on the radio.

People are passionate.

Art, whether it be music, poetry, visual art, graphic art, digital art or creative writing, gives people an outlet for that passion.