Art is Essential: The Sunday Art Series

Art is important. No art is essential. But lots of things are essential. To the athlete, team sports and competition are essential. To the biologist, identifying the birds at her bird feeder is essential. To the academic, research is essential. Where am I going with this? In a world crowded with activities that draw our attention in a variety of directions, the “essentials” in our lives end up competing for our time and attention. These things may all be essential, but life is about choices. And I keep coming back to this; art is essential. This is coming from someone who studied biology in school while competing in athletics through college.

Last fall I decided that instead of watching NFL football, that time I would have normally been watching the Minnesota Vikings, I would instead do something creative or outside. This was a decision prompted by frustration with a league that still allows a team to use a racial slur for a team name (not the Vikings by the way) and for a game that has been unable to deal with the epidemic of concussions among its participants. After gloomy projections on the season (maybe making my choice easier) the Vikings surprised everyone and entered the last game of the season competing for the division title. I caved. Within the first few minutes I watched a Viking player stagger off the field with an obvious concussion. Karma. I honestly don’t remember who won the game. I could look it up to write this more accurately, but really—what does it matter?

It’s not like I expected my personal boycott of the NFL would change anything. Recognizing my effort as not even insignificant, but simply unnoticed, this fall I was more ambivalent. Week 1 of the season passed and I ignored it. Week 2 came and I watched one game. Week three is here and early this Sunday morning I sat down to do some writing with truly no idea what I wanted to write an what came out was “Art is important. No art is essential.” Well there you go. The power of art (if you can call my writing an art form).

Dee Dickinson from Johns Hopkins School of Education writes this about the importance of arts (in education).

  1. They are languages that all people speak that cut across racial, cultural, social, educational, and economic barriers and enhance cultural appreciation and awareness.
  2. They are symbol systems as important as letters and numbers.
  3. They integrate mind, body, and spirit.
  4. They provide opportunities for self-expression, bringing the inner world into the outer world of concrete reality.
  5. They offer the avenue to “flow states” and peak experiences.
  6. They create a seamless connection between motivation, instruction, assessment, and practical application–leading to deep understanding.
  7. They are an opportunity to experience processes from beginning to end.
  8. They develop both independence and collaboration.
  9. They provide immediate feedback and opportunities for reflection.
  10. They make it possible to use personal strengths in meaningful ways and to bridge into understanding sometimes difficult abstractions through these strengths.
  11. They merge the learning of process and content.
  12. They improve academic achievement — enhancing test scores, attitudes, social skills, critical and creative thinking.
  13. They exercise and develop higher order thinking skills including analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and “problem-finding.”
  14. They are essential components of any alternative assessment program.
  15. They provide the means for every student to learn.

To me, this is a list of benefits not only good for our students, but for everyone. So, new plan this NFL season. The Sunday Art Series. Every Sunday I will create some form of art and share it. Good, bad, indifferent, I don’t think the quality is what is important, but it is the process. Now if just I do this, I’m one old crank writing a poem, painting a picture, or singing a song by myself in the basement. If two of us do it—well then it’s two old cranks in the basement. But if three of us, if three of us do it, it might be the beginning of a movement—the movement to better the world through the Sunday Art Series. Join me.

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