As a teenager I gave art lessons to neighborhood children and I continued my love for teaching art when I became a professional artist. Several years later, I encountered one of my students when she was in college. She thanked me for those art lessons that she received during a very difficult and painful time in her young life. She said she learned “how to see”, solve problems from different angles, and increase her aptitude to excel in other subjects. Her words have continued to remind me that when many other systems in society fail, we can take comfort in knowing that teaching art brings hope to future generations.
Scientific Proof About The Brain
There are numerous scientific studies that reveal how creativity improves brain function. Eric Jensen, one of the leading translators in the world of neuroscience into education, refers to this fact in his book Arts with the Brain in Mind, “The systems they nourish, which include our integrated sensory, attentional, cognitive, emotional, and motor capacities, are, in fact, the driving forces behind all other learning.”
As we know creativity is the application of the imagination. It has the ability to transform traditional ideas, patterns, and relationships into new and improved methods, forms and interpretations. As Albert Einstein so aptly wrote, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”
Art Alters Destructive Behavior Patterns
Artists, scientists and educators are joining forces to interpret and apply our ever-expanding knowledge about the many benefits derived from the creative arts. This type of synergy brings hope to our youth.
To elaborate, medical scans have revealed the parts of the brain that are responsible for controlling impulses and setting future goals are among the last to mature. That explains the destructive behavior of many adolescents. It has been shown that creative art programs that encourage productivity and self-worth have the potential to divert at-risk children from a life headed toward criminal behavior and self-destruction.
Four Life-Changing Art Programs
Artists who teach creative skills to children make the healing glue that mends their fractured lives when everything else seems to be falling apart. Here are four organizations that fulfill that mission.
Inner-City Arts, www.inner-cityarts.org, located in Los Angeles, California is a leader in this direction. “An oasis of learning, achievement and creativity” it resides in the heart of Skid Row. Its Education, Arts and Social-Emotional Learning (EASEL) Program teaches administrators how to “bridge arts instruction with other core content areas through a lens of social-emotional learning and brain-based research.”
Also transforming the lives of young at-risk kids through creativity is Art Start, www.art-start.org. This award-winning organization began in 1991 when a group of artists got together with homeless kids to make art in New York City. The children they serve live in city shelters or on the streets, or live with parents in crisis. In daily creative arts workshops local artists donate their time to nurture the talents of these young individuals.
Another life-changing program was started Adarsh Alphons, an artist who was born in India and lives in New York City. In 2011, while art programs were being slashed in public schools he launched ProjectArt, http://projectart.org, in Harlem. ProjectArt brings art classes to public libraries located near schools where art is not taught. Both emerging artists and college students teach art classes to these children.
Leading the way in collaborative arts education since 1977 is Studio in A School, www.studioinaschool.org founded by Agnes Gund, philanthropist and President Emerita of the Museum of Modern Art. This non-profit has enriched the lives of more than 850,000 children in New York City’s five boroughs with the visual arts. It brings professional artists into schools and community organizations to lead classes in a range of mediums. The instructors work with teachers to link art with other academic subjects.
Studio in A School hires only professional artists because, “Working artists are particularly suited for teaching art, not only because they have extensive knowledge of the history and culture of art and strong technical skills, but also because they are able to model an artist’s way of thinking and working.”
We Can Make A Difference
As Carl Jung wrote, “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”
Ann P. Kahn, Former President of The National PTA, wrote, “The creative arts are the measure and reflection of our civilization. They offer many children the opportunity to see life with a larger perspective… The moral values we treasure are reflected in the beauty and truth that is emotionally transmitted through the arts.”
Nelson Mandella proclaimed, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Let’s apply his guiding principle to become staunch advocates for organizations that strive to heal the whole child through heartfelt innovation. Let’s also encourage creative collaboration among the arts, science and education. Our support will change children’s lives and lead us to a healthier society.