Submitted by: Amelia Harter
It has been over two decades since I sat in first grade. Many things have happened in my educational career since then, however I cannot specifically remember any of it the way I do my first grade class. It was in this class that I painted my first ceramics, created my first hand mold and hand prints on glass. I remember my teacher also, who orchestrated these fun-filled art projects. All these years later, as a professional in the working world, the lasting impression from my first grade teacher and the art projects in her class is still strong. Education and policies have changed since my childhood, as they will; however, children’s love for art has not.
Research from organizations like Americans for the Arts has discovered that students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even better attitudes about community service. The benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status.
Art projects in school are memorable and very beneficial. Art has a history of being everywhere, in every culture, creed and country. The various mediums (i.e. painting, dance, music, sculpture, photography) for art are tremendous and growing with technology. Art has endless possibilities, as it also appears to be a timeless aspect of humanity, gracing the sides of cave walls as a foreshadowing of masters to come. One statement issued by Americans for the Arts articulate the arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age.
In Colusa, the Colusa County Arts Council (CCAC) has embarked on a mission to help bring an art program into all the primary and middle schools in Colusa County. This vision includes the possibility to produce art projects that can be tied to the existing curriculum, making it more interactive and enriched. This inspiration and collaborative effort is in the early stages of development, although 6 months of meetings, drafting ideas, planning, investigating and more developing hardly seem like ‘early stages’. The planning process is so involved because the CCAC is collaborating with several different organizations to orchestrate the program. The unity of the various organizations is phenomenal and a true demonstration of how wonderful our community is.
The benefits from art in education are too great to ignore. Art opens the door to all cultures in beautiful and amazing ways that really help people accept and appreciate one another’s differences. A general fluidity and mixing of languages, cultures and identities is becoming a fact of life as ideas, goods and people flow with greater mobility across borders.
Appreciating one another’s differences is something that can be done indirectly, without preaching or lecturing. An art project that focuses on making a piñatas for fun could help generate enthusiasm and interest from children to learn more about Mexican traditions. An origami project is a hands-on project that could stimulate interest in Japanese culture and history. The possibilities are endless and the amazing part is that most children respond to art enthusiastically, diving right in. Certain aspects of globalism may be inevitable or irreversible, however globalism can be steered in less damaging, more democratic and more socially just and equitable directions. In an effort to create a more peaceful future, we need to encourage better understanding of one another’s differences. The natural peace that comes with art has massive potential in the class-room, in projects that involve creativity, co-existence and ultimately, learning.
The CCAC wants to help ensure every child has the opportunity to experience the benefits of art and express their creativity. An art program is a way for the youth to learn about their own as well other cultural heritages, giving everyone a voice.