When tough economic times strike arts programs are always the first to be cut because they are given a lower funding priority than “core” academic subjects like reading, writing, science, and math. However, according to Richard J. Deasy, former director of the Arts Education Partnership, this should not be the case. Deasy addressed those who gathered at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on October 7 to learn more about how arts education can impact individuals and our society.
Deasy explained that arts education actually enhances the learning of other disciplines because it helps students “develop their imagination.” In schools with arts programs students read and comprehend better. Imagination also can make help make kids better citizens because, says Deasy, they will acquire the “capacity to imagine a future and to work towards that future that we commonly imagine.”
According to Deasy, stimulating and nurturing imagination also leads to innovation and enhances the decision-making processes. Other characteristics that students can develop through an arts education are empathy, social tolerance and collaboration.
Deasy also emphasized that arts programs in schools can also lower drop-out rates by helping to motivate students, and said programs can also lower teacher turnover rates.
Learning an art form can also provide a student another mode of expression to show the world who they are. Arts education can therefore be very helpful in engaging those students who otherwise would not be interested in school.
After Deasy’s remarks, those in attendance were given a chance to brainstorm on ways to build a creative workforce. Some of the ideas suggested were: have representatives from local creative companies speak to students who are studying the arts in the School District; have those working in the arts teach in the schools; create partnerships with local businesses and others to help fund the arts in the School District; and create a community-wide arts project.
Also suggested: bringing arts to non-traditional venues; creating opportunities for adults to participate in the arts to encourage support for increased arts funding; instituting “art breaks” rather than coffee breaks in the workplace; having local art organizations visit the workplace; create opportunities for children to visit creative companies; and engaging businesses to donate art supplies to schools and art organizations.
Jessica Cusick, Santa Monica’s Cultural Affairs Manager, closed the workshop by announcing the City hopes to hold another workshop on this topic in a couple of months.
The workshop was sponsored by the City of Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Division in partnership with the City’s Economic Development Division, the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, Santa Monica College, and the Santa Monica Malibu Education Foundation.