The Importance of the Arts: Experts Share their Perspectives

Children are born artists. Even young children know how to create – thrilled by the magical sound made by tapping on piano keys, by the texture of fingerpaints, by the freedom of dancing across a hardwood floor. The arts play an integral role in child development, and not just because they help boost test scores.

All children should have the opportunity to be exposed to the arts in some way, whether at school or through extracurricular activities. Drama, music, painting, drawing, dancing, sewing and more all play significant roles in the development of the whole child as they provide our kids with the opportunity to connect with something special within them and to develop modes of self-expression.

Each month, North State Parent magazine strives to include the many opportunities in our community to expose children to the arts. We feel so strongly about the role of the arts in family and community that our January issue is focused on honoring the many people who promote the arts in our North State. We interviewed several of these amazing people who have dedicated their lives to working with kids.  Here, in their own words, is what they say about the significance of the arts in the lives of our children.

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art-115-dodiniWhat most people don’t realize is that the arts are not just ballet and painting. It’s an economic engine, especially here in California. All things manufactured − cars, buildings, ball point pens − had to be designed by a creative person. All you need to do is turn on a TV to be inundated with dancing, music, acting, story-telling . . . It’s an art in itself putting together a commercial. It’s a mystery to me why we are not teaching the arts.

~ Frank Dodini, owner and director of Frank Dodini Voice & Music Instruction, Paradise

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art-115-stearnsArt gives us a way to find ourselves and lose ourselves in the same moment, and an arts education builds so much more than the ability to express oneself. Through arts education students learn coping skills, how to take criticism in a positive way, how to set and achieve personal goals, and the importance of commitment, all while having fun. Without art we are lost, and without functional members of society we are in chaos, which is why our arts education programs are so vital.

~ Krysta Shaw-Stearns, owner and director of Red Bluff Performing Arts Centre

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art-115-summersMusic is the basis of the arts. It gives us a meaningful way to live life, to discover so much that is beautiful, adventurous, unpredictable and harmonious. Music class covers all other subjects: math (division of notes, ratios, fractions, etc.), history, geography (songs of states), English and other languages, to name a few. Music reinforces these other subject areas. Without music, the world would be a dull place to live or learn. Music class is where you learn the really important things in life – things like cooperation, passion, compassion, courage, self-discipline, self-confidence, poise, tolerance, honor and integrity.

~ Joyce Summers, music teacher at St. Joseph School in Redding for 26 years.

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art-115-weyandI have seen my children grow and accomplish such a variety of skills from being involved in performing arts. The confidence and responsibility each of them have gained through music is amazing to watch from a distance. Starting music in the 3rd grade and continuing through their mid to end high school years has brought so many positive experiences, lasting memories and friendships, such as going to Hawaii to perform with Starship. Music has opened up opportunities that I never would have imagined for them. I am grateful my kids have a passion that keeps them focused and having fun.

~ Tiffany Weyand, Mom of Josh & Noelle, Enterprise High School music students 

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art-115-greenfieldWhen a fidgety 2nd grader at our school learns to channel his energy into a complex drumbeat, he is feeling success for perhaps the first time. But when he graduates 8th grade, he will know what it’s like to learn a song completely and then give it to an audience. He will know how to find music that moves him, heals him and helps him live a richer life. So many people are hard-wired to create and cannot fully express themselves otherwise. We must have arts in our schools because so much of our world cannot be understood through any other means.

~ Ruth Greenfield, Director of the choral program at Chico Country Day School

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art-115-salyersI am passionate about teaching drawing, painting, and sculpting to young people because all humans have a need deep inside of them to express themselves in some sort of creative outlet. In this extremely busy world we hear more and more about the need to become still and quiet in our hearts and minds. The process of “doing” art provides an excellent opportunity to achieve that still, quiet mental state, providing mental rest, growth and healing. Art is a “discipline,” providing us the opportunity to create something tangible out of an idea and to share it with another; that is very fulfilling.

~ Deborah Salyers, fine art instructor, Shasta County

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art-115-dukeThere are 27 members of our choir, from 2nd to 5th grade. We meet for 25 minutes before school. I get really excited when they can at last sing without my help. When they can hit those notes. From their faces, I know they have it. And I know they know they have it. The arts are another component of education – or they should be. I might have to tap on a table or sing a song. You need to reach kids from any direction. Why do we teach the arts? It makes the whole person. Imagine not having that?

~ Lori Duke, 4th grade teacher and Choir Club leader at Alta Mesa Elementary, Redding

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art-115-bennettDuring my thirty years of teaching in public schools, I have always worked hard to keep arts education a viable and integrated part of our everyday curriculum. From poetry, singing, dancing, drawing and painting, to learning about artists throughout history, children develop a cultural appreciation of other times and countries. All people, young and old, deserve the opportunity to express their feelings and ideas in a wide variety of ways. The arts open so many doors that other disciplines do not. I implore teachers and parents to fight to keep arts education alive in all educational settings.

~ Julie Bennett, retired elementary teacher K-3, current taiko teacher, Mt. Shasta and McCloud    

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art-115-nilssonI write poetry. I studied calligraphy in the late 1970s. And over the years, I realized that people see the arts as something designed to exist in its own world. At Inspire, our students must cross these barriers. From my point of view, California has an arts education crisis that started in the early 1970s. Now, most public and charter schools don’t prioritize arts curriculum. I have hopes for Common Core because its thrust is for students to dig deeply. The intentions of No Child Left Behind were good but we didn’t think of arts integration. Only testing. I encourage parents to lobby their schools if they don’t have an arts curriculum. Parents have a lot of resources starting with the California Alliance of Arts Education.

~ Eric Nilsson, Principal of Inspire School of Arts & Sciences, Chico

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art-115-villerrealLife comes without a script. Most moments are unplanned and call for an immediate response or an action. That’s “improv.” Participation in the “Arts” prepares all students for life, giving them confidence and the ability to think creatively and spontaneously. After all, as Shakespeare put it, “All the world is a stage, the men and women merely players.” We must do our best to play our parts well, in all moments, planned or unplanned.

~ Sue Villerreal, Theatre Director, Mount Shasta High School

Lisa Shara
About Lisa Shara

Writer Lisa Shara lives in upper Northern California where she is involved in a variety of community projects.

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