Yes – the role of the arts in our Atlanta community is multifaceted! It relates to its value; its economic impact; its role in economic, community and neighborhood development and redevelopment; its strength in enhancing the human connection and its legacy for generations to come!
Many people still see the arts as frills and fluff; or as a hobby for the wealthy. Art is regrettably still near the bottom of any list of community or national priorities. But I believe the arts are, in fact, a critical part of the infrastructure of our community and its people! Certainly for any city that aspires to be “world class!”
I would submit the arts are as essential as airports, highways, mass transit, convention centers or sports facilities. But unlike physical amenities of concrete and steel, the arts provide something far more valuable! The arts reflect the spirit and soul of the city, and define the character and “class” of a city and its citizens.
In fact, the arts are a major economic engine and most significant to me: the arts are the basis for our education from cradle to career and beyond! ART is at the heART of learning and in education!
Arts in Education: it all begins with the ART in heART! WOW! How powerful: consider — as a child develops, we clap when he says his first word and she sings her first song; we encourage her to walk, dance, tap her toes!! We love those precious pictures that they draw – even if on a wall! We even applaud the banging on the pots and pans! Then all of a sudden we “shhhhush” the child and shut down the creative spirit: DON’T talk; DON’T tap your tees; DON’T pick up that pencil; DON’T make so much noise – sit in your seat; be still and quiet! My, my – what a difference it can make to integrate the many aspects of art – in the classroom, in the home, on the playground – and experiencing the art in the neighborhoods, in the performing arts centers, even on the streets into an arts learning journey as a person’s education!
It is proven that visits to performances are effective! A recent study in Brookings by Jay Greene Distinguished Professor of Education Reform – University of Arkansas (1) reports “that students who received multiple [arts] field trips experienced significantly greater gains on their standardized test scores after the first year than did the control students. If we combine math and ELA tests, we see a gain of 12.4 percent of a standard deviation at p < 0.01, which translates into roughly 87 additional days of learning. Breaking out the results shows gains of similar magnitude for both math and ELA, but the math result is only significant at p < .10 while the ELA result is statistically significant on its own.” WOW! And the results in this study come from a study of students receiving multiple field trips to the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta; attending events at the High Museum, Alliance Theater, and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra!
Of course, another bonus is the integration of arts in learning – in each discipline: reading; math; science; history – every subject! In a recent report from Georgia’s Council for the Arts (2), “Arts learning has been valued in the classroom and the workforce for its ability to encourage creativity, improve literacy, instill culture, enhance history, teach teamwork, and prepare students to be model citizens.” Numerous studies have been conducted which demonstrate the powerful impact of arts learning on academic achievement, school engagement, brain development, social development, and college and career readiness. In short, the research has collectively reached a definitive conclusion – that arts learning is essential to deliver a well-rounded education and is necessary for students to compete in the 21st-century workplace and world.
The future of the arts in education in Metro Atlanta – and indeed in the United States – lies in the hands of people like you! What we enjoy today in Atlanta came about as a result of people with vision! Not just visionary artists, but visionary people in business, in government – and certainly within the non-profit sector. Visionary leaders who understand that it takes more than bricks and steel to build a really great city! And it is simple!
Five easy ways for YOU to support the arts and arts in education:
- Participate/Attend: Consumer/Volunteer/Board
- Give: Contribute/Donate
- Experience the Art: Take a class
- Speak Up/ Advocate/ Be an ambassador
- Support the Arts Eco-System
My hope is that we can count on you to do your part: to keep the arts and arts in education alive in Atlanta and to support Atlanta as it strives to be a truly world-class cultural center!
- Brookings by Jay Greene Distinguished Professor of Education Reform – University of Arkansas: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2018/02/16/an-unexpectedly-positive-result-from-arts-focused-field-trips-in-school/
- Georgia’s Council for the Arts Arts Learning Task Force: https://www.georgia.org/sites/default/files/wp-uploads/2015/08/ALTF-Report-Final-with-links-revised.pdf
- Middle School Music & Theater students get better grades:
Top photo: 2018 Education Luncheon at The Woodruff Arts Center, shot by Greg Mooney.