You're in elementary school. It's 12:30 after lunch and you just polished off one of those head-sized lunchroom cookies and are 3 seconds short of drooling through George Washington. The 12:30 bell rings and all of the kids perk their heads up out of their History books and rush to form a line by the front door -- It's time for art class!
Maybe you don't remember how the smell of wet clay and glue sticks filled your nose when you walked into the art room, or how excited you were to have a brand new, sharpened crayon with all of the paper still perfectly wrapped around it felt in your hand. Or how devastating it was when your clay coffee cup (Or ashtray, if you were a 90's kid like me) exploded in the kiln. And let me tell you, from one former 10-year-old to another, you should, too! These were life lessons here, folks. Research shows time and time again how engaging in creativity strengthens other important areas of the brain, such as cognitive thinking, language development, decision making, motor skills and an overall academic performance. So why is it that during financial budgeting, one of the first things that gets cut are the art programs in our schools and communities? Perhaps it's because it's not initially as obvious, as say, the major textbook classes. (How Creativity Works In The Brain.)
An extremely interesting study was conducted by Dr. Felton Earls, a Harvard Professor of public health, in a quest to find the most important factor in community health and stability. This extensive, fifteen-year, $51 Million scale project was studied throughout different cities in Chicago. His findings were astounding. Dr. Earl's discovered that it wasn't access to healthcare, wealth or crime rates (Though all very important aspects in community well-being) that effected the health of a neighborhood most. Instead, he found that the biggest determining factor of how healthy one community was from the next was primarily based on what he called "collective efficacy." He explained that people who act together with common interests made significantly bigger impacts on the health, growth and overall well-being of a neighborhood. People did this by creating, communicating and developing ties on a cultural level. His study shows us that economic growth and success relies on community collaboration, and one of the best way to achieve this is through the universal language of art.
That brings us to the next interesting fact. Art is great for business! Think about it for a second. You've probably visited a vibrant community with a lot of little shops and new businesses popping up at every corner. Maybe you even live in one. There's probably a lot of artsy-fartsy things going on, and community events that are full of vendors and some murals painted on the sides of buildings. These places seem to have an ever-changing structure and there's usually a lot of young people and dog walkers hanging out at coffee shops. A soy milk latte might cost you one whole $10 bill, but if there's one thing that everyone can agree on -- it's that these are the markets that are growing the quickest and bringing in new families and fresh businesses at extraordinary rates. Where you see creativity and artwork, it's usually a key sign of a growing community. People visit these places because it feels good. They want to be part of it.
So now that I've (hopefully) convinced you of the importance of creativity for our family, neighborhoods and local businesses, how can you make a difference? Well, luckily that's the easy part.
1. Use your voice! Stand up when your community art programs are being cut.
2. If you're looking for a new piece of deco for your home, consider buying from a local artist. Or at least a living one!
3. Take an art class. There's a ton of studios and art classes available if you're looking for them. And if you are too cool for school, get your kids involved instead! Sign them up for an hour class and go pick up groceries or get a haircut. I'm sure you'll enjoy the time to get a little done and you'll have a new painting to display on your fridge at the end of it.
4. Visit a museum or art center. Looking at art can be a cool experience, even if you don't quite understand it sometimes..
5. Consider giving art as gifts for birthdays and holidays instead of being predictable. Uncle Louie already has 10 wallets and Aunt Martha has enough blankets. Art seriously makes the best gifts, trust me, it's true because you're reading it on the internet. Be an interesting gift-giver.
6. Learn about art history! Beginner? Start with the story about Van Gogh. Everyone likes that one because he cuts off his own body parts and sends them in the mail. Fortunately, artist's are interesting people to learn about.
7. Learn to make something. Need a new bowl? Cup? Flower pot? Wall Decor? Blanket? Jewelry? Head over to your local small business craft shop and have a little retail therapy.
8. Donate art supplies to your local programs and schools! Some teachers have to buy art supplies from their own pay because the programs lack sufficient funding.
9. Attend a high school or college play!
10. Go to an art show/exhibition! Sometimes there's little crackers with cheese involved. Eat them with your pinky out to really get into the mood.
So now that you know what art does for your community, health, children and local businesses, what are YOU going to do to support the arts? Let's make a difference today!