During one of our many summer camps for kids, the students were creating a long strand of beads to use as a hanging device for their mobile sculptures.
One of the girls had her strand almost finished when the end failed and all the beads hit the table and went tumbling to the floor. She stopped for a second then looked up and said “I didn’t see that coming!” We all laughed because of the amusing and resilient response to such a disappointing moment.
Arts education teaches many things beyond the skills of art-making. Whether it’s visual arts, theater, music, writing or dance, the arts give us the opportunity to take risks and uncover possibilities. We celebrate the multiple perspectives and find meaning in what might be considered “mistakes” in other disciplines. Art expands our understanding and opens our thinking to give us experiences we cannot get from any other source. The arts give us new languages that shed light on the human condition and help us express the profound experience of being alive in the world.
A former student of mine began with an art class that his mother signed him up for ... of course, under protest. He continued with music and performance classes for quite a while, even though he knew he didn’t want to make that his profession. He went on to college and received a degree in economics. With the skills he learned through the performing arts, he was able to hone his skills that translate well beyond the walls of the theater – confidence, communication, collaboration, adaptability, responsibility, self-expression and emotional connection to the world around him. These life skills helped him succeed in a field that has nothing to do with the arts specifically, but in a world full of theory and numbers. Even though his goal wasn’t to be a performer, the arts education he received helped prepare him for other real-world experiences and triumphs.
Designated by Congress in 2010, House Resolution 275 names the week beginning with the second Sunday in September as National Arts in Education Week. The celebration is to recognize the transformative power of the arts in education and in our lives. It is the perfect time to thank an art teacher, sign up for a class or dance because you feel like it.
Celebrate with the Durango Arts Center this weekend at Southwest Colorado’s premier outdoor fine art and craft festival, the 22nd annual Durango Autumn Arts Festival showcasing the creativity of art makers from around the country. This year’s festival features 90 artists and craftspeople selected from over 200 applicants. Entertainment throughout the weekend has been coordinated by Stillwater Music and includes our own DAC’s Applause! students. Stop at the Creation Station to get your face painted, make a puppet, paint a mural and just play.
Sandra Butler is an artist and the education director for the Durango Arts Center. Jason Lythgoe is an actor and the Applause! program director.