It is not uncommon to hear from a student (or even parents) that the arts “aren’t really his or her thing.” Stereotypes and assumptions about artistic disciplines and even artists themselves can play into fostering an apathetic, unappreciative, or even disrespectful, attitude towards the arts. Despite plenty of research to the contrary, the arts are sometimes still seen as irrelevant, silly, outdated, and inconsequential. So, how can we, as parents and educators, change that mindset and encourage students to give the arts some credit?
The first step is to broaden our view of what classifies as “the arts.” Performances on a stage or pieces on display in a gallery might be what first come to mind when we think of examples of the arts, but what about the arts in our everyday lives? TV, movies, radio, graphic design on every website or app, photography in magazines or billboards, the clothes and shoes you wear, the design and décor of your home or workplace, and even the fight song of your favorite athletic team all make up “the arts.” Behind each of those elements of everyday life is an artist. In fact, according to the National Endowment for the Arts, there are over 5 million workers employed in the arts and cultural industries nationwide, with faster-than-average growth in employment projected for arts related careers. The arts are everywhere and they are certainly relevant!
The second step is to try and keep trying. Just because piano lessons weren’t your thing when you were 8 years old, doesn’t mean you should write off all the arts for the rest of your life. (I would even argue that piano lessons might often deserve a second look with some more maturity and life experience.) Just like we wouldn’t let our children swear off all vegetables because they didn’t like peas when they were 7, we shouldn’t let them decide that all arts aren’t for them based on their opinion of one or two experiences. Vegetables and the arts contribute to healthier children, so don’t give up on either one. Encourage your children to try new things, just like they try new foods and different ways of preparing them. Exploration of the arts, like all learning, should be a lifelong process. Take advantage of the numerous arts offerings through school to get their feet wet, and ask your child’s arts teachers about recommendations to take his or her artistic explorations a step further outside of school. I love helping to connect students to additional resources outside of school that fit each student individually. Let’s talk!
The third, and perhaps the most important step, is to model arts appreciation in your own life. I was fortunate to grow up in a family where the arts were on equal footing with athletics. As a family, we enjoyed going to the ballet or musicals together, just as we enjoyed taking in a baseball game together. The arts weren’t mocked or undervalued. I was encouraged and celebrated in my artistic pursuits, and my whole family grew in their own appreciation and understanding of the arts in the process. It wasn’t just “my thing.” Going into the holiday season is a perfect time to commit (or re-commit) to the same attitude towards the arts in your own family. There is a multitude of shows, ballets, and concerts (some of them free) in the area over the coming weeks and months. I challenge you to make the arts part of your holiday traditions. Look for opportunities to point out the work of artists. When you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or when you take your children to the James Island County Park Christmas lights, make sure they realize that those entire experiences are actually well-choreographed art, dance, and theatre shows that took a lot of hard work…and they are fun!
Having parents as allies in encouraging arts appreciation is crucial. I hope you will commit to fostering arts appreciation in your own families, and please feel free to reach out to me if there is any way that I can encourage your children in their artistic pursuits. There is a place for everyone in the arts.