Remember the arts
June 20, 2011
by Jenni Sebora

I recently attended the Young Authors and Artists Conference at the College of St. Benedict. It is always such a treat and a pleasure when I have the opportunity to parent-chaperone this. It takes place each spring, and students from the upper elementary grades are invited to this for having skills in writing and/or artistry.

It is a jam-packed day full, of various sessions taught by talented Minnesota authors and artists. Children are learning and inspired by the best. The day, however, starts out with all of the “young artists and authors” filling an auditorium for opening remarks by the organizers of this special annual event and a special guest speaker.

The guest speaker this year opened up with these words, “When you write, draw, paint, sculpt . . . You leave your mark – this is how you see it, and we can learn from you.”

Those are powerful words. Engagement in the fine arts is a form of expression. Writing, drawing, painting, and sculpting allow one to creatively express oneself, to show the world how you see it. Whether in the form of music, theater, or visual arts, fine arts is about creativity.

Research shows us, though, that exposure to arts and music improves more than just creativity.

According to the Americans for the Arts in an article, “How Do Fine Arts Help Children?,” children who are regularly exposed to the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic excellence, to win an award for writing, and to participate in a science or math fair.

Children who are regularly exposed to arts are also more likely to be elected to a class office and have good school attendance (Source: www.livestrong.com).

Studies show that there is a relationship between the study of music and improvement in math and spatial-temporal relationships. Listening to music engages several parts of the brain. According to the Children’s Music Workshop, studies of the brain show the development of more extensive neural connections in musicians.

The article also noted that when compared to their peers, young artists are involved in community service activities and youth groups more than four times as often. Those children who are active in the arts an average of nine hours weekly are also less likely to be involved in truant, delinquent, or negative behaviors.

My 14-year-old son and a friend are currently attending a jazz band camp at the University of Minnesota-Morris campus. It is led by a U of M-Morris fine arts instructor, as well as other musicians who are working on their doctorates in music. They are receiving jazz theory as well as other forms of music instruction. At the end of the week, the camp attendees will perform a small jazz “festival” for the families. I am looking forward to this performance.

For my son, fine arts are an important part of his life, as well as reading and writing. Just as the article noted, regarding benefits of regular participation in the arts, he has very good school attendance, obtains excellent grades, participates in youth activities and student council, and volunteers actively at such places as a local senior care center.

He loves music, theater, reading, and writing. In fact, a friend and he have been working on writing their own novel. They have written more than 300 pages and take turns writing, starting where the other left off – a shared effort. They get together to discuss the characters and the plot.

It has been a pleasure to watch him develop and hone his interests. It’s exciting to hear him share about the plot of a story he is writing or reading. Barnes and Noble has become his favorite hangout, as well as the band room at school.

The encouragement of participation in the arts is very important for our children. Whether it be music, theater, drawing, painting, or visual arts, there are great benefits that go well beyond the classroom.