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'Art has no enemy except ignorance'


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“If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”

THIS quote from Emile Zola reminds me of a young artist I know.

My son, Steven, discovered his niche in school through the music program at Columbus North High School and, just like the quote above, learned to live out loud.

While studying music in high school, I watched him move from an insecure young boy into a confident young man with a vision for his future and his world. His enthusiasm for school was driven mostly by his passion to sing.

This enthusiasm has also led him to study music in college.

Choir kept him actively involved in school and helped him connect his love of music to many other academic disciplines.

The arts, for many like my son, connect students to learning and provide a positive outlet for them to pursue their interests. Yet, last year in the U.S. alone, many arts programs lost funding through state budgetary limitations for the fourth consecutive year. Indiana alone lost 4 percent.

Although these changes haven’t been within our local district, I wonder how many children are “left behind” in struggling districts no longer able to financially support an arts curriculum. And how many of these children might have enjoyed learning more if they had been given opportunities to excel in the arts?

Several recent studies have indicated a strong connection between the arts and other academic areas.

For instance, the Center for the Arts published a report in 2009 suggesting arts education may improve graduation rates.

A 2011 study called “Reinvesting in Arts Education” found that students raised their academic achievement levels through an integrated arts curriculum.

In 2010, a study of the Missouri public schools found that a greater arts education program led to fewer disciplinary infractions, higher attendance, improved graduation rates and higher test scores.

And one other study by Johns Hopkins on “Learning, Arts and the Brain” found that a strong arts education program can even rewire the brain in positive ways.

The multiple studies supporting the arts in educational curriculums go on and on. However, even with all of the data surrounding the arts, the current state of arts in many educational programs is diminishing in many of our public schools around the nation.

I wonder what our world would be like without the works of the great painters, writers and musicians of the past — painters like Leonardo da Vinci, musicians like Beethoven or poets like John Milton.

I also wonder where my children would be today without the guidance of some amazing artists and inspiring local educators like Taffy Schroer, Dennis Khune and Janie Gordon, who taught those students to appreciate the beauty of art, the sounds of music and more.

Today, I am grateful that we are still able to provide arts programs in our public institutions, and I hope that others understand the value of these programs for all students in all academic areas.

As an old Latin proverb states, “Art has no enemy except ignorance.”

Karen Greathouse is a teacher at Central Middle School and an adjunct instructor at Harrison College.

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