The arts are important, no fooling!

March 23, 2012



Ann Genson


mcp arts blogger


Speaking of the arts…


Summer’s here! April Fool’s! Oh wait…it isn’t even April 1 yet! So, although it feels like we have already entered west Michigan’s favorite season, we are just a day or two into spring. And spring always brings back memories of the spring musicals we would produce each year at Mason County Central under the direction of Mr. George Reed. Then that memory sparks the thought that we are indeed entering the “performing season” at many local schools.

Like most of you, my first exposure to the arts in any form was in school. I remember music in elementary school with Mrs. Sanregret with those unforgettable recorders. And I remember performing in a first grade play directed by Mr. Reed (serving as a student teacher at the time) wearing construction paper costumes (which I believe I still have in a box somewhere).

Now that I, along with many of you, have children of my own, I look forward to a spring filled with school programs, plays, band and choir concerts, art exhibits, talent shows and performing arts of all shapes and sizes. And I can hardly wait!

Sure some of us will sit there and groan at times as we endure the squeaks, squawks and dissonance of missed notes or the uncomfortable silence as actors trod the boards with stage fright-induced forgetfulness or the delightfully mediocre artwork we must walk past in search of our child’s masterpiece.

But we will also beam with pride as our young ones enter into that spotlight or bring their instrument to their lips or stand next to their painting for a memorial digital portrait. It will bring us back to that terrifying first moment when the world seemed to be closing in on us.

Even if you never experienced that for yourself, you cannot help but feel the vicarious butterflies as your chest swells with pride.

Now take a step back and think of what is happening in many schools today. Art, music and drama programs are being reduced or eliminated by the handfuls. These programs are not seen as essential to a child’s education. On the other hand, schools cling to their sports until their last dying breath. I am by no means stating that athletics are any less important than the arts. They are both essential outlets and forms of expression for young people. While music and the arts are often thought of as frivolous and unimportant, the argument in favor of sports usually centers on the revenue that can be generated and that it builds character in students. No one can deny that participating in sports helps students to remain healthy and encourages teamwork. However, I think what is being overlooked is the academic success that can be generated by the arts.

According to the Arts Education Partnership, a coalition of arts, education and government organizations, various art forms benefit students in different ways. Music students have increased math achievement and proficiency, higher SAT verbal scores, and better reading and cognitive development. Students of drama experience improved concentration and story comprehension and find it much easier to understand social relationships, complex issues and emotions.

Dance helps with creative thinking, originality and flexibility. It also increases self-confidence and persistence. Visual arts improve the content and organization of writing, and promote the ability to comprehend text and reason about scientific images. Participating in a combination of art forms will help students with math and reading skills as well as higher-order thinking.

Above all, the arts allow a safe place for our children to express themselves and all of their emotions, of which they have many! Without the arts, many children are left to find their own outlet, which seldom has a healthy outcome.

So, as you watch this season’s presentations at your local schools, and I hope that you will, keep in mind that you are witnessing not only self-expression, but also the growth of self-worth. Children cannot grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults without self-worth. And our society is best served by the contributions of healthy, well-adjusted adults. Help our young people to stay healthy in mind, body and spirit and become contributors to our society: support arts in your local schools!





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