his past weekend at the Stittsville Arts in the Park, I had the pleasure of chatting with a teacher (hi, Karen!) about the importance of promoting local artists in schools.
Not only is it a help to the artists, but it’s also great for the students. Proof that they’re just as capable of bringing their own dreams to life.
Which got me thinking about a subject that usually gets me ranting:
Arts in school.
Or rather, the lack thereof in most current curriculi.
Arts are among the first to get their funding cut (not just in the education system, but generally it seems), and are often looked on as a hobby, a time filler between hard, important subjects (i.e., practical subjects that are more likely to lead to money-earning jobs), instead of the absolutely crucial and necessary role they have: Self-expression. Self-exploration. Self-development.
Encouraging young people to indulge in some form of creative expression does not mean they’re going to die of starvation while waiting for their first painting to sell or their first book to get picked up. Most young people are smarter than that. If they choose to follow an artistic path, will find ways to earn money that allows them to focus on what they want. More often, their artistic pursuits are something they’ll follow on the side. The world needs scientists as much as it needs musicians, but that’s not to say one precludes the other.
Encouraging young people to express themselves through some creative means, whether it’s visual arts or literature or dance or wood working or whatever it is, allows them an outlet to be honest with themselves and explore different sides of themselves, even if no one else understands it.
No one else needs to. That’s kind of the point of creative work.
When I sit down to write a new book, there’s always a piece of my current mental state that finds its way into the scene. It might be buried under layers of structure and writers’ craft, edits and polish, but it’s there.
Don’t get me wrong, math, science, all these practical studies are equally important, but the key word there is equally. They’re not better than, they’re just as.
Maybe if I’d gone to a school where that was better appreciated, I wouldn’t have had the lack of interest when it came to science. I might have appreciated that a closer look at studying plant cells could help with a plot point down the road, or at least help develop my research/analytical skills, which are just as important to an artist as anyone else.
Creative outlets are good for mental health. They’re a safe space, a personal space. They leave room for positive, healthy solitary time, but also open the path for building a community, finding your artistic family at a time when the outside world can feel a little bit huge and daunting and intimidating.
Creative outlets teach creative thinking, problem solving. They teach patience. The importance of practice and learning — both via an instructor, but also, even more importantly, self teaching, going out to discover the resources that will help you improve.
This is a hill I will die on.
Anyone who tries to argue that the arts aren’t worth someone’s time, that they won’t pay the bills or deserve the funding/time/attention they need to evolve, is someone who can’t appreciate the threat this poses to the younger generations if they grow up without them.
They don’t appreciate how quickly that spark of passion can be snuffed out by a lack of encouragement or by neglect.
And what’s life without spark?
What’s life without passion?
To quote from one of my all-time favourite musicals: “The opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.” — Mark Cohen, RENT.
You want to improve the world? Create something new. Grow, develop, evolve.
The sooner the modern educational system appreciates that, the better of we’ll all be.