Art. Dance. Empathy. Growth.
As a non-profit, Guam Conservatory of Arts has and will continue to make a strong defense for the importance of the arts in our society. For adults, art may prompt contemplation of the human plight, or it may create an appreciation for the sublime, or it may serve as a catalyst to get in touch with ones emotional trauma. But for children, art can be an instrument for growth.
In February 2019, the Brookings Institute conducted the first ever large-scale controlled study of the efforts in Houston, Texas to restore arts education in the classroom. [No Child Left Behind diverted school funds away from K-12 arts programs and toward subjects that could be tested.] Efforts to reinvigorate arts education was simultaneously also being done in Boston, Chicago and Seattle. Houston’s Arts Access Initiative included 42 elementary and middle schools, involving third through eighth-grade students who received experience across dance, music, theater, and visual arts disciplines. Cultural organizations also partnered with the program providing learning opportunities through before-and-after school classes, field trips, and exposure to live performances from professional artists.
The study showed that increases in arts educational experiences made remarkable impacts on students’ academic, social and emotional outcomes.
“Those students who received the arts education experienced a 3.6 percentage point reduction in disciplinary infractions, an improvement of 13 percent of a standard deviation in standardized writing scores, and an increase of 8 percent of a standard deviation in their compassion for others. In terms of our measure of compassion for others, students who received more arts education experiences are more interested in how other people feel and more likely to want to help people who are treated badly.” -Brown Center Chalkboard, Brian Kisida & Daniel H. Bowen
In particular, the elementary school students (86% of the sample) increased in school engagement and were more likely to agree that schoolwork is enjoyable and that it makes them think about things in new ways. The arts program inspired the participants’ college aspirations and was found to encourage them to draw upon works of art as a means for empathizing with others.
Children who have received arts instruction are more likely to apply themselves to scholastic assignments and engage in educational activities with more commitment than children who are alienated due to apathy. Our aim at Guam Conservatory of Arts is not only to develop budding artists, but to guide young men and women -- to respect and care for those around them, to be "present" and engage in the moment, and to improve their surroundings whenever they can. The arts inspire us to be humane.
It has been a concern for many middle and high school principals that much of their time is devoted to disciplinary issues because violent behavior has risen and so has the threat of students carrying weapons. American society should reassess its values. Did schools forsake its goal of providing a well-rounded education to its students when it de-funded the arts? Has the absence of the arts in our schools made our children angrier and crueler?
While art may be unable to solve all of society’s ills, I contend that art is designed for the survival of civic society. Art nudges us to consider our human condition, to recognize with humility all of our strengths and all of our weaknesses. Art leads us to conclude that we are all similar in heart, mind and spirit. The arts inspire us toward empathy. The arts are the genesis of growth.