As a four-cities-compact student, I attended school at both Barberton and Wadsworth High School and would like to discuss the importance of the arts in schools and their impact on our lives, using mine as an example.
Most Americans agree that the arts are important. In a 2018 poll by Americans for the Arts, with a sample of 3,023 adults, 91% believed that the arts are needed for a well-rounded education for K-12 students, 73% agreed that the arts help them understand other cultures better, and 72% believed that the arts can unify us regardless of age, race, and ethnicity. Additionally, students that take at least four years of arts and music education score an average of 150 points higher than students who only take six months or less. On top of all the statistics, students who study the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement and three times more likely to be rewarded for their attendance (Americans Speak Out). There are many benefits reaped by encouraging young students to take some form of the arts.
Partaking in some form of the arts provides students with socialization skills and opportunities. In my personal experience, I was asked to help out with the musical when I was in high school, and looking back I’m extremely happy that I agreed. I was introduced to a lot of friends while working on the musical. I also became a member of the school's drama club, and each year I looked forward to it. Meeting wonderful people and being able to create art with
them each year helped my depression and social anxiety.
As shown by the 2018 poll, another facet of the arts is that it can help young people in schools gain exposure to other cultures. Through this exposure, students gain love and respect for cultures other than their own. People love African style art because of its use of beautiful colors, or they love the art of Ireland as simplistic at times while letting the beauty of the land be shown.
Let’s look at a painting that we all have seen at least once in our lives, The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. This is a painting we have seen many times throughout popular culture, whether it be the actual painting or through some rendition. Did you know that the spilled salt is symbolic of bad luck or evil? The same moment that Jesus reveals one of his disciples will betray him, is the same moment that Judas Iscariot spills a salt-cellar. Western superstitions about salt might come directly from Da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper. The spilled salt teaches students not only about Christianity, but also aspects of our Western culture, like superstitions and omens.
Lastly, another way art can help students is by exposing them to current events. A contemporary example is Ai Weiwei in China, whose work is known for criticizing the Chinese government. He has a piece where he holds and drops a 200-year-old urn from the Han Dynasty. The urn holds significant symbolic and cultural worth, therefore many called it an act of desecration to which Weiwei simply replied “Chairman Mao used to tell us that we can only build a new world if we destroy the old one” (Ai Weiwei). With everything going on in our world from COVID-19 to civil unrest and lockdowns, I think it is important now more than ever, that schools allow the teaching of the arts and exposure to other cultures; to help us understand and help ourselves grow to be more compassionate to others.
“Ai Weiwei, Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.” Guggenheim Bilbao, FMGB Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa, www.guggenheim-bilbao.eus/en/learn/schools/teachers-guides/ai-weiwei-dropping-han-dynasty-urn-1995.
“Americans Speak Out About the Arts in New Public Opinion Poll.” Americans for the Arts, Americans for the Arts, 15 May 2019, www.americansforthearts.org/news-room/press-releases/americans-speak-out-about-the-arts-in-new-public-opinion-poll.