Arts education boosts student success, enriches communities

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Each year, the cultural and education communities come together to celebrate the power of the arts in education to transform our communities, schools, teaching and learning. As our young people and educators return to school, we take time to reflect on the role of arts education in our lives and how it has contributed to making us the people we are today.

The research is undeniable: When schools and communities embrace the arts, dance, music, theater, visual and media arts students benefit, educators are more effective, and learning communities are revolutionized.

Designated by Congress in 2010, National Arts in Education Week is a celebration of the power of the arts in education. This year, we will be celebrating throughout the community from Sept. 9–15 and the Kentucky Coalition for Arts Education encourages all supporters of arts, culture and education as well as our elected officials and education leaders to join with us!

The research is clear: Youth who participate in the arts are more likely to be successful in school, college, and careers than their peers who did not have arts education. However, the same research substantiates that access to arts education is not equitable for all children, particularly those from minority races and lower socio-economic groups.

In order for all citizens to reap the benefits provided by arts-rich schools and arts-infused communities, we must focus on increasing access to all students, not just the privileged; strengthening the K-12 curriculum to provide instruction in all art forms, increasing the number of highly qualified arts educators in our schools, and collaborating with the professional arts community to provide authentic arts experiences for our children.

As we celebrate National Arts in Education Week, it is helpful to pause and proclaim our accomplishments. Kentucky has a strong heritage of arts-rich communities, and our citizens have repeatedly affirmed their expectations for an arts-rich curriculum through legislation that directs schools to develop students’ artistic talents and abilities to apply core concepts in the visual and performing arts.

In order to cultivate and maintain the arts-rich experiences and communities that our citizens desire, and that business and industry seeks, business and education leaders, professional arts organizations, arts teachers and parents must work together to help our children develop those talents and skills that will enrich the life experience and contribute to more vibrant communities.

National Arts Education Week is an exceptional time to focus our attention toward attaining that vision.

Philip Shepherd is a member of the Kentucky Coalition for Arts Education, representing arts educators in the Kentucky Music Educators Association, the Kentucky Art Education Association, the Kentucky Theatre Association and the Kentucky Association for Physical Education, Health, Recreation and Dance.