March is Youth Art Month, a nationally recognized and supported endeavor to highlight the importance of teaching the arts to our children. “Art education develops self-esteem, appreciation of the work of others, self-expression, cooperation with others, and critical thinking skills, skills vital to the success of our future leaders —our children” ( http://www.acminet.org/youth_art_month.htm).
Allied Arts Association here in Cambria, under the steam of artist/educator Suzette Milam-Morrow, is taking part of this celebration and presenting the Youth Art Show, running all this month. The opening reception will be held at the Old Grammar School Gallery from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 5. With the help of artist/artist-in-residence teacher, Stephanie Arehart, we should have a wonderful sampling of work from all grade levels in our school district.
There will be musical entertainment at the opening, including preview performances from the upcoming high school show “Seussical the Musical” and singing by Sarah Wright of Cambria.
I asked Suzette about the motivation for this show, “It is essential that we keep fighting for our youth to have the arts as an important part of their education. The automatic assumption is that art is ‘fluff’ and ‘leisure’ courses of study. Actually, it is quite the opposite.
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“They provide an avenue to study every subject. They give youth the vital skills of problem solving and concept to concrete. As Daniel Pink says in his book, ‘A Whole New Mind,’ ‘A creative thinker will be the only thing that cannot be outsourced in America.’
Art is actually written into the state curriculum. We are required to conduct some form of art education. Often, this duty falls to teachers who may have no art background or experience and funding comes through the good graces of the Parent Teacher Association or, as in our fine town, with strong community support. And, thank goodness for them and people like Suzette and Stephanie and the teachers who do work hard to bring these subjects to our kids.
“Well-developed programs of making and studying art serve many functions. They help students better articulate their perceptions and shape coherent responses to their experiences. When children learn to appreciate form and color, when they learn the importance of fashioning their own images of the world around them, they achieve greater discipline and self-confidence. Further, the arts have extrinsic public value as they are increasingly important to this nation’s economy” ( “The Nation and the Arts,” a Presidential briefing paper prepared by the Independent Committee on Arts Policy).
I have the good fortune to teach crafts classes on occasion to all ages. I have long encouraged my own children to express themselves in other ways. Well, I guess they didn’t really have much of a choice around my house, eh?
“… To everyone celebrating Youth Art Month — through study and appreciation of the arts, we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and of society. For children, the arts are an invitation to cultivate the skill of critical thinking and to recognize the bonds that link the diverse cultures of the world. American arts education enlivens our school, opening children’s mind and awakening their senses to the human experience” (President William Clinton).
Experience the Youth Art Show this month. Get a glimpse at how our children are seeing the world.