“The arts teach us to be human.”
“The arts allow us to feel seen and feel heard.”
These profound and deeply felt sentiments are from FUHS arts students. In other words, playing music, acting, singing, dancing, painting and taking photos are not just hobbies. Instead, the arts are an essential part of learning.
And to illustrate just how necessary art is to becoming a healthy human being, 10 FUHS student art leaders met with elected officials on March 11-12 as part of Stand Up for Arts Education month.
As a Tribe Tribune reporter, I was invited to attend the Zoom meeting with Senator Josh Newman on March 11. I’m not sure what I expected going into the meeting. Maybe some discussion about how art is fun or how art is relaxing. But what I heard was so much more, and I was sincerely impressed with these student ambassadors and their thoughtful insights regarding education.
I was so drawn to the discussion, that my peers made me start thinking about my own relationship with art. Personally, I’ve always been drawn to music, but why? After taking some time to think, I realized it was because of the human connections that surround music. We search for meaning behind lyrics, emotion behind melodies, and we have empathy for an artist after getting a glimpse into their world based on the music they put out. I have been a part of several choirs since the third grade, where we’ve performed songs from a variety of cultures and backgrounds, discussing the history that surrounds the piece and expanding our viewpoints.
In a society that continually emphasizes the importance of STEM classes and careers, I feel like we tend to forget about the arts, particularly in terms of funding, which is disappointing because of the valuable skills that participating can give students.
Research connects learning music to improved “verbal memory, second language pronunciation accuracy, reading ability, and executive functions” in youth, as well as a better understanding of sharing culture and expressing emotions (arteducationmasters.edu, katyisd.org). Now my opinions are not meant to villainize STEM or pit it against the visual and performing arts, but rather point out that both are important and we need to treat them as equals in school settings.
In Thursday’s meeting, FUHS students explained to Senator Newman why the arts, and subsequently funding arts programs, is so important from a student perspective. They described their experiences and beliefs with passion that made it clear that they were a part of theater, dance, choir, and band programs for more than looking well-rounded on college applications.
Senior Isabel Van Wye says that art allows students to express emotions.
“Our arts teachers emphasize that the arts really teach us how to talk and how to relate to one another and emote,” Van Wye said. “Being able to express who we are, that’s what makes us human, the good, the bad, all of it.”
Art also builds communication skills.
“It forces students to get out of their comfort zone and be able to talk or perform in front of large crowds all the time,” Van Wye said. “Even when we’re not performing in front of large crowds, you have to be able to talk to the many different people in your choir or your cast for theater or your team in dance. You have to be a team and be able to work together and talk, even to the audience after a performance, so it definitely builds those valuable skills.”
Unfortunately, the reach and quality of visual and performing arts classes can be threatened if there are continued cuts in funding to their programs or to schools in general, which has been made more likely because of states’ budgets during COVID (ncsl.org).
A good arts education requires funding especially for students who cannot afford their own instruments, art supplies or even piano accompanist.
Without proper funding, there will be no arts education. Without arts education we will be lesser versions of ourselves. Help students reach their full potential by contacting your elected officials at govpredict.com or sign a pledge to support the arts in schools at artsareeducation.org. Do your part and Stand Up for Arts Education.