I sometimes recall my experience in the fourth grade at Village Elementary during the school’s “specials” day where we had to go through numerous classes outside of our homeroom. These classes often ranged from a variety of different subjects such as science, reading, and the one that I enjoyed the most, drama and music class. It was there that I was introduced to ideas such as the beginnings and influence of the theatre, the inspirations behind Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” and the single melody that inspired me to want to be an artist.
It was this class that motivated me to learn more about the arts and find out how it evolved into what it is today. It inspired me to learn about instruments and melodies. It inspired me to learn about taking bleak lines off a page and act out scenes with passion and intent. It inspired me to figure out where I would fit in to the whole story.
I’ve been seeing and reading a lot recently about stories that mention budget cuts that take funding away from school’s arts departments, and personally that really affects me as I feel that it was because of arts education that made me into who I am today. It changed my life, and while I understand that a lot of other people have completely different passions, there are many others who call the arts as a second home, a second family if you will. Thinking of a system where arts is stripped down enough to where it hinders students’ abilities to work and learn more about their passion worries me. Not to mention a stripped-down arts department that leaves it unable to inspire a young artist the same way that I was as a kid.
Just because arts aren’t part of the STEM curriculum, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t deserve any less attention in being part of students’ education. I can’t seem to find the reason that not only arts, but also humanities seem to take the first hits when schools decide to cut budgets. Numerous studies published in the last 20 years showcase findings that prove that schools with strong arts programs have students who are more well-rounded and more capable of being “sustained, self-directed learners.” Students who are able to exercise their creative minds can take that into other fields and push innovation and advancement in other subjects.
I knew that being part of the arts department at my school taught me many things about myself the world that I don’t think I would’ve learned if I wasn’t a part of it. In my case, being an actor made me learn a lot about other people and the emotions that we all go through on a day to day basis. Having to tell stories on a stage and play in someone else’s shoes taught me compassion and understanding in a way that I think is completely unique.
But one of the most important things that arts taught me is expression. Having the ability to express my creative instincts and my own thoughts and emotions through my art is something I will never take for granted, and I’m sure many of those who have been in my position feel the same way. Being able to take a paintbrush, an instrument, your voice, etc. and be able to express who you are is a gift that should be preserved forever in our school system. For it’s this type of education and environment that makes young students the ones who can change the course of history, who can explore the depths of humanity and be the light through the darkest of the times, they can be the ones who can inspire an entire nation with a single melody.