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Awakening to the Arts
As I reconnect on social networking sites with people that I haven ‘t seen or heard from in over thrity five years, there seems to be an interesting pattern among us tail end baby boomers- people are re-discovering their inner artist. Since I have been involved in art all my life, it is interesting to watch others now in midlife, who are just realizing the joys of creativity. Some are busy scanning photo after photo, experiencing the wonders of “Photoshop”; some are out every night learning new tango routines; others have recently picked up their dusty high school clarinet and have started playing music- again. I even have a cousin who will turn fifty in November, who is about to try out for her very first community theater production!
Maybe this is a creativity wave that occurs with each generation, or maybe it is just a by product of the economic times and instead of people turning to technology and the latest “i-gadgets” they are instead turning inward and finding great joy and satisfaction in the process of creation. Whichever the case, creativity allows one the freedom to take risks and explore their inner depths in a way that may not be possible in their ordinary lives.
As arts educators, we understand the benefits of arts education not just for the sake of the discipline itself, but for the intrinsic “zen” that comes with the creative process. I have watched students enter my classroom agitated and upset, only to have all the stress dissipate once they get involved in a project. I have used art as a de-escalation tool for angry kids with no appropriate emotional outlets. It works. Unconciously our students use dance and music to de-stress on a daily basis.
We all have an innate need to create. It is how we have evolved physiologically and sociologically. Our cells are “creating” on a daily basis- splitting, mutating, regenerating. Cellularly, we need to create. Emotionally and spiritually we need to expend this energy as well. The flip side of creation is destruction and when our creative needs are not met, the same energy turns on itself. If for no other reason than this, the arts must be maintained and supported in our schools. Most of the time it is only in our classes where students get the opportunity to express themselves and practice creative expression because we cultivate and encourage it.
I was lucky. I attended a high school replete with creative course offerings. Language arts wasn ‘t just English Lit, we had choices- Media Study, Creative Writing, Existential Thought in the Novel. All the fine arts were offered- Drama, Music, Visual Art and Dance. Our teachers were encouraged to develop creative curricula for these courses and we thrived. Perhaps that is why I am seeing such a Renaissance in art interest in people my age. We were encouraged to go beyond the ordinary. This was not a private school or one in an exclusively high tax area. This was a typical, suburban 1970 ‘s neighborhood high school.
I am grateful that my high school years were a rich tapestry of creative outlets but I am concerned that the generations of kids that we teach today won ‘t have the same regard for the arts and creative expression as we did. I wonder whether in thirty or forty years the kids of today will find comfort in the act of playing a piano or dancing the tango. Will they chance an audition at age fifty? Are we providing enough creative stimulus for them now so that they too may have an artistic foundation to build on when they reach middle age?