Beyond Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
The Case for the Community Arts Programs
Formal education is often seen as nothing more than preparation for the workplace. Instead of helping children to bring out their interior gifts and discover the wonder of trying out those gifts in the wider world, education has been reduced to a stepping-stone towards an ever-increasing competitive job market.
With this idea of education, arts and music education are usually the first thing to go in school curriculums, or they are reduced to minor electives that fail to fully expose children and teenagers to all the arts have to offer. Due to the lack of artistic education in schools around the country, it is hardly a surprise that many of towns, cities, and metropolitan areas are also deficient in artistic spaces and opportunities.
Why Should We Prioritize Arts in the Community?
Art is one of the best ways to draw people together, and according to one report it offers a “rare opportunity to lead significant change by engaging specific groups to help devise and carry out creative community-building neighborhood programs.” With rising racial tensions, political polarization, and increasing economic uncertainty all affecting many urban areas, using art to bring communities together to find common ground is essential.
Furthermore, community art programs also have the ability to impact the lives of marginalized and less fortunate children. In situations of poverty, homelessness, or other economic hardship, the arts provide a space for these children to express themselves and begin to learn developmental skills outside of traditional school environments.
A Princeton University study found that art programs in schools and a thriving art culture in urban communities offers some of the following benefits and advantages:
- Increases propensity of community members to participate in the arts
- Increases attractiveness of area to tourists, businesses, and high-skill workers
- Fosters a “creative milieu” that spurs economic growth in creative industries,
- Promotes neighborhood cultural diversity,
- Reduces neighborhood crime and delinquency”
Who is at the Forefront of Community Art Programs?
In the Washington D.C. area, Project Create is one community arts program that brings together a wide range of local artists and school age children. This program helps children discover their inner creativity while also offering therapeutic art programs to help children suffering through difficult family situations.
In Philadelphia, Art-Reach is another organization that believes that art should be accessible to people from all walks of life. While art education is often considered to be only a privilege of higher income individuals and communities, this organization offers art workshops and classes to low-income communities and to people living with disabilities. Similarly, Fresh Artists, another art organization in the Philadelphia area, specifically opens spaces for young artists from low-income communities to promote and show off their artwork creations. While private galleries might charge thousands for a young artist to display their talent, Fresh Artists helps young artists gain exposure. Furthermore, the artwork on display is also exhibited to several corporate partners in order to garner donations to help further fund schools with underfunded art programs.
Community art programs are an opportunity for the youth to learn and develop important life skills but also allow the artists to share their skills and experiences. Which brings different generations, ideas, and creativity together.