In news that no one in the art-world is surprised to hear, but that everyone on the planet should be aware of: the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), that pesky left-wing conspiracy group the culture warriors of the GOP are constantly trying to defund, has completed a survey that reveals the undeniable benefits of art education to at-risk youth.
Suck it, naysayers.
When I worked with the Boys & Girls Club in my town during my college summers, I could see the direct benefits of working with kids who were from all over the map and giving them the opportunities not awarded them outside of a structured program. While we focused on team-building, cooperation, friendship and trust along with physical exercise, the results are the same: keep kids focused and growing mentally and physically, and their confidence grows and they emerge well rounded teens and adults.
The NEA’s study, The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth study,
“uses four separate longitudinal studies (three from the U.S. Department of Education) to track children, teenagers, and young adults who had high or low levels of arts engagement in or out of school. Those activities included coursework in music, dance, theater, or the visual arts; out-of-school arts lessons; or membership, participation, and leadership in arts organizations and activities, such as band or theater.”
And the results are fantastic!
- Better academic outcomes with higher overall grades, higher participation in sports and extracurricular activities, a higher likelihood of planning for attending 2-4 year colleges, and eventually more likely to earn their bachelor’s degree.
- Civic engagement increases including in-school and extracurricular activities such as voting, volunteering, and being involved in their communities though reading local and national news papers, and being involved in local politics.
Engaging youth in the arts has always been vital to our communities, and yet it’s art programs that are cut from our schools before anything else. Where there is art education – be it music, fine arts, dance, etc – there is emotional, educational and economic growth. Why we continue to skimp on these programs in our schools goes against all the data suggesting the necessity for these such programs. It’s mind blowing that the arts are still considered the hippy-dippy paint splattering bullshit our conservative parents thought was a waste of time and not a vital part of our cultural growth and economic development as all the exhaustive studies have shown them to be.
I still remember my father, upon my first holiday back from art school, asking me how drawing class was, and whether or not I finger painted on the side. Hardy harhar, yes hilarious that I was spending so much money on art school. Such a joke, I know. And yet, I managed to come out of it with my own business, running another and, frankly, I’m a pretty decent public speaker thanks to years on the stage. I also have made lasting friendships with people working in so many different amazing fields, it’s hard to believe we were drunken idiots with a penchant for pretty things only 11 years ago.
The people I went to the slacker-haven that is art school? They are Emmy award winners now. They own their own theatre companies. They travel the world designing the products we use every day. They own their own companies. They have families. They made our world more colorful, engaging, exciting, and interesting. When was the last time you had a hilarious conversation about pop culture with a banker?
Let’s stop acting like the arts are a foolish endeavor. By doing so we hold ourselves back from our real potential – as people and as a country.