COLUMN: The Importance of the arts

Published 3:49 pm Friday, April 8, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By KAY TIPPETT | Community Columnist

When I was at Prattville High School, we did not have a theatre department. We had one teacher, Ms. Cox, who took on the task of producing a high school play. We had no classes or workshops. We just got together and did it. I learned about theatre makeup and how to French braid my hair. I made friends with people who were not in my normal social circle. It was a good experience, but that was the end of it. As a student, I was totally unaware of the impact that experience had on my life.

Now as an educator, I know the truth. Most of us learn more by doing than we do by hearing or seeing. Knowing something does not mean we master something. We don’t have an intimate knowledge of a concept until we apply it in a real-world situation. Now, consider the arts. A student who learns to play an instrument not only enriches his life with music, but research shows that he improves his focus and persistence, which in turn improves his performance in school. Students who take art classes improve their language and motor skills. They learn how to take risks in a safe environment and how to be inventive.  A student who participates in theatre learns how to speak up for herself in a crowd and how to control her emotions in difficult, stressful situations. These young people learn the power of memorization and practice to improve their skill set.  In “Creativity and Academics: The Power of an Arts Education,” Neil Swapp states, “Through the arts, students develop skills like resilience, grit, and a growth mindset to help them master their craft, do well academically, and succeed in life after high school.”

On Feb. 28, Chilton County High School Theatre Arts Guild had its fifth Mime Day. Students dressed in Mime costumes, complete with makeup, and spent the entire day in silence, communicating with body movements and gestures. Some carried around white boards. Some utilized the technology in their hands to use computerized voices, but they did not speak. They got a grade in drama classes for this activity, and that surprised some people, but it should not. Spending an entire day without speaking teaches them how mute people exist in the world. It forces them to rely on other forms of communication. They become more aware of their own facial expressions and those of others. They listen more closely. They exercise their ability to control themselves. Dressing in costume prepares them for wearing uniforms or business attire for jobs and careers. Creating a Mime face pushes them to be creative and daring. They learn about themselves by pretending, just for a day, to be someone else.

This is important in the current climate we are experiencing. We have become so dependent on technology, and every man, woman and child is glued to some sort of screen. There is nothing inherently wrong with utilizing technology, but what are we giving up in order to spend so much time on screens? To ensure that we continue to grow as a society, we must encourage our children to venture out into the unknown. We need to create, not simply watch as things happen around us. Discovering cures for diseases and new ways of dealing with problems only happens when we are inventive and daring. Encourage your child to be daring. You can do that by simply visiting an art museum one hot day during the summer. Visit the local music store and invest in a guitar or a harmonica. When your kids are choosing classes, encourage them to try band or drama. Visit CCHS when we produce another play, so they can see other students trying something challenging. Take them to a play at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival instead of a movie. (The ticket prices are a little higher, but when you eliminate the popcorn and snacks, your pocketbook won’t feel it.) You will also appreciate the investment you are making in their future when they become more well-rounded individuals and find more success and happiness in life.