Why do the arts matter?
If we haven't met, hi! I'm Sarah, and I'm a firm believer in a couple of things. One of those things is this: The arts are for everyone. Period. End of sentence.
I've seen the value of the arts in my own life, as well as the lives of those around me, and I've turned this observation into a mission to make the arts accessible to everyone, not just those that have the privileges or resources to access them easily.
Part of the issue with making the arts accessible is ensuring that people can see the value they provide. Art classes, band, choir, and more are often the first to go when budgets get tight, and are seen as simply an extracurricular. But they're so much more than that. The arts are how we heal, how we connect, how we learn, and how we process life.
I've been talking to artists, creators, and passionate art advocates over on my podcast, Amplify the Arts, all about this very topic. Feel free to go check it out wherever you listen to podcasts! But for now, let's talk about some very practical values of the arts.
It's no secret to us now that humans are absolutely hard wired for community. We need a group where we belong, where we feel safe and loved. Growing up, I attended a smaller school. While I had a group of friends at school, I found my truest community outside of school--at the dance studio in the evenings.
Art is deeply personal. It's vulnerable by nature and requires a level of courage to share. When kids (or anyone, for that matter) create something together and share it with one another, whether it be in their middle school art class, dance rehearsal after school, or even kindergarteners showing one another their finished pages from their coloring books, they're allowing themselves to be vulnerable in this safe space, and to form meaningful, supportive relationships that are necessary for our development.
Note: Brené Brown has done SO much fascinating research on the role of vulnerability in our lives that correlates so strongly with the arts. If you're interested in this idea, I'd recommend starting with her Ted Talk on the power of vulnerability!
Practical job skills.
My really cool mom started a thriving theater program at the middle school she teaches at. In her episode of Amplify the Arts, she notes that one of the many reasons she loves having kids in drama class is because she gets to sneak in valuable skills that they normally wouldn't receive, or want to participate in. For example, a student who might hate reading and refuses to pick up a book will be excited to dive into their latest script, reading it fervently as they digest each line. Additionally, as they learn those lines and create a show that they're proud of, they're tackling the fear of public speaking that many of us deal with. Meanwhile, in an art class down the hall, an art teacher might be encouraging their student to find new methods, new techniques, and new ways of solving problems, no matter how challenging this might feel.
Every day, I realize more and more that the skills that landed me my current job are because of the arts. I could speak confidently in my interview because I got comfortable speaking in front of various groups of people through theater and pageants. I can write compelling copy as a Social Media and Communications Specialist because I was encouraged to read, write, and learn how to tell stories through all my arts programs. I can find my next steps because perseverance was encouraged when I felt too tired for dance class, or when I was too impatient to develop a quick mind and quicker fingers on the flute.
Here's another source I love regarding skills that children learn from participating in the arts!
Actors are some of the most empathetic people I know. Why? They quite literally make a living off of putting themselves in other people's shoes. They deliberately pour their energy into seeing things from somebody else's point of view. Can you imagine how much better off we might be if we all put a drop more energy into this mindset?
Now, we aren't all going to be on a Broadway stage one day, but the arts and storytelling through characters can build empathy in other ways. I have always been a writer. It's one of those things that I can't not do. I write countless little stories than never see the light of day, creating characters and worlds that I love. Every time I do, I get to practice empathy. I get to ask questions like: How would this experience affect this character? How would the experiences they've had influence their decisions? What would they want in life, and why? How would their outlook on life be different than my own?
Exposing the worst parts of our society, and showing us how to fix them.
My friend Sabrina is incredibly passionate about a lot of things in life, but one specific thing she loves is the movie Tangled. In our next episode of Amplify the Arts (follow us wherever you listen to podcasts so you don't miss it!), she walks us through 11 tactics used in gaslighting relationships, and how each one is used by Mother Gothel in the movie. If you're not familiar with the concept of gaslighting, it's a form of emotional manipulation where one person or entity, in order to gain control, brainwashes the victim, making them question their own sanity so slowly, they often don't even realize it's happening.
Mother Gothel is textbook definition gaslighter--a character who, we can clearly see, is emotionally manipulative and incredibly toxic. The problem with gaslighting, though, is that the tactics used are so subtle, the person being gaslit often doesn't even realize it's happening as they begin to slowly question their own sanity. Stories like Tangled and characters like Mother Gothel can help teach us to recognize the worst parts of our society or toxic figures in our own lives and how we should react--all in a digestible and entertaining way.
I could go on and on, because the arts are just THAT cool.
I love hearing stories of how the arts have impacted people's lives. Want to share your story, donate to Amplify the Arts, or even be a podcast guest? Let's chat! Send me an email at email@example.com and we can get the ball rolling.