Imagine a world without music, a world without books, or a world without dance. Imagine a world without Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. Now I was just referring to the famous artists, but perhaps like some of you, my only exposure to these men in my youth were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who were named after them. We wouldn’t have them either if we didn’t have art. Go further and imagine not being able to watch your favorite TV show because no one wrote the script. Think of the chaos that would ensue without being able to read your child their favorite nighttime story. In the United States, the arts mean multiple things for a variety of people. It encompasses many of the things we use and do on a daily basis. Many aspects of our cultures, entertainment, and the diversity of America involve the arts. If we removed all of the arts from our lives the gaps would be tremendous.
October is National Arts & Humanities Month. It has been designated as a “coast-to-coast collective recognition of the importance of culture in America. Since 1985, the month of October has been designated to encourage all Americans to explore new facets of the arts and humanities in their lives, and to begin a lifelong habit of active participation in the arts.”
I think about all the ways the arts has impacted my life and it’s a little overwhelming. So let’s back up a bit and let me explain why I’m such an advocate of the arts. I’m an only child that grew up with a huge extended family. I mean cousins for days. It’s easy to get lost in such a multitude of personalities. How can you be seen or be heard? When I started dance at age eight (which in the dance world is quite late), I think I really started becoming myself. I started dancing once a week at Trudy’s School of Dance and that studio quickly became my home away from home. Before you knew it, I was an assistant teacher, I joined the dance company and I started attending the Charleston County School of the Arts (SOA). I lived and breathed dance.
As I grew older and continued to immerse myself in my art – I became more confident, more open to other people and new experiences. Dance made it easier for me to make genuine connections with new people. As I began choreographing it challenged me to be more creative – and the more creative I was the more courageous I became – inside and outside of the dance studio. It was also such a great experience to see how art affected others and changed their lives. The one thing I loved the most about SOA was seeing the talent and creativity of my peers. It helps you understand people who aren’t like you. It also pushed me to be a better artist.
In America, culture, diversity, and entertainment are all expressed through the arts. People can easily share aspects of their culture by allowing someone to hear a song that is popular in their culture or learn a tradition native to their country or culture. This exchange of culture is so vital to the vibrancy of our country and why National Arts & Humanities month is so important. Sometimes folks just think of “the arts” as this thing that happens on a stage or is hung on a museum wall. Art can affect a life in such a positive way and I encourage you to learn how arts in education is such an amazing experience for students.
I think there will always be someone who questions “what is art and do we really need it“. There are no clear distinctions on where to draw the line. The fact such a range of types of art can exist is a small testimony to America’s diversity. Popular culture and the fine arts are similar because both have the questions of freedom of expression, censorship, and the impact of words and images on impressionable minds stamped on its content. Your exposure to the arts may not be as expansive or direct as someone else, but because of the broad categories of the arts everyone can be considered artists or at least be involved in the arts on some level. Think about that the next time you go shopping, admire a really cool design of a new product or laugh at a funny commercial on TV. You just supported the arts…now can you live without it?