As a lifetime artist, illustrator, and educator, my life is surrounded by creative people who look back at their childhood and the people who have influenced them, believed in them, and inspired them to follow their dreams. Those dreams included becoming artists, lawyers, doctors, business executives, and neurosurgeons. These professionals tell the story of how art education greatly inspired each of them in their younger years, rooted their confidence and influenced their successful, future professional careers. I have cherished memories of my high school art teacher, Mr. Globerman and my after school art instructor Mrs. Adler, who gave me an extra advantage by connecting me with talented students from surrounding towns.
Keep art in the curriculum
Creative opportunities like these are life changing for children, but surprisingly art classes are the first to be cut from school budgets amid an ongoing emphasis on core subjects like reading, math, and test scores that measure student success. Art is essential to adolescent development. The arts engage with the brain’s hippocampus, which builds an emotional awareness and fosters empathy, especially for young children. Michael Garland, a bestselling author and illustrator of over 30 children’s books, states, “Art education is important because it reaches every child and inspires those that could not have been motivated in any other way.” According to my research there is also a connection between arts education and increased academic achievement. Safeguarding art education for our children is vitally important.
Art and Academic Connections
When students found themselves reduced to computer screens during pandemic distance learning, depression, anxiety, and feelings of sadness increased. Contemporary Painter Sherri Wolfgang asserts, “Art gave me a safe space to be creative and it was always the art teacher who supported me!” Recognizing both the visual and performing arts – painting, drawing, music, and dance – has become a crucial form of healing, connection, and compassion.
Art teachers I spoke with assert that art instruction helps children with the development of motor, language, and social skills, as well as decision-making and risk taking. The visual arts teach color, layout, perspective, and balance. Most of the subjects in school such as math, science, and history require structured right or wrong answers. Creative Director David Pollard observes that “Art education is the bridge between the linear and non-linear modes of learning. By participating in drawing, the student experiences history, discipline, personal creativity, and confidence.” Confidence and discipline have been linked to successful job placement in top professional positions.
Many of today’s graduates are starting their own ventures in unique fields. If they are encouraged to be creative from childhood, they can be even more productive in their career choices. Kathryn Ko, MFA Chief of Metro Neurosurgery articulates, “Art gave me something I didn’t know I needed. My neurosurgery career expanded after I became an artist.” A recent report from LinkedIn, placed creativity as the top skill in demand by employers in 2020. The ability to be creative will set professionals apart in today’s job market, across disparate sectors and industries. When Alison Gentry was hired by a top Los Angeles Entertainment Law Firm, she said that her success was in part to her interest in the intersection of creativity and academics and stemmed from her ability to pursue both subjects throughout K-12.
It is important to examine the dangers and detriment of the arts not receiving as much the same importance in our culture as other initiatives. Throughout the years STEM programs and initiatives have increased in popularity across schools nationwide, but research says otherwise about its success. Multidisciplinary artist and author, Lisa L. Cyr states, “The arts provide a catalyst for invention and innovation. The great thinker Albert Einstein said that the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. We must nurture creative faculties from a young age.”
A lack of support for the arts will decrease career opportunities and paths. The pressure to attend a certain level of college paired with the high tuitions tend to lead our culture away from the arts as an educational or career path. When a child shows a particular aptitude for the arts and will not be dissuaded, this puts the obligation on parents to nurture their children’s creativity with independent after school opportunities, many taught by professional artists. Early access and development in the visual arts can broaden the future paths of children, stimulating cognitive functions for academic performance, improving math proficiency, reading skills, scientific reasoning, and content organization, all of which yield increased SAT scores. Bil Donovan, artist, author, and Dior Beauty’s first artist-in-residence strongly expresses, “Art education opened opportunities beyond the scope of the expected path for a young boy in a blue-collar working-class neighborhood.”
In school communities nationwide, initiatives should be as inclusive as possible so every child can grow to their full potential. Awareness is the first step in facilitating change. Art advocates, teachers, parents, and supporters worldwide need to work together to ensure that today’s curricula nurtures creative skills for
every student. •