“Ya gotta have art!” That was the slogan for the Detroit Institute of Arts back in the 1970s (forever immortalized by this joyfully catchy commercial), but the sentiment has never been truer.
You do need art. We all do, and not just for high-brow reasons.
Over the past few decades, there has been a growing movement in public education and government circles to cut funding to the arts.
However, if you actually take the time to look at the data available, you’ll find the arts have a very tangible, measurable, and essential impact on our lives. It doesn’t matter if you’re an elementary school student or if you haven’t been in school for decades—the arts enrich all of us, sometimes in ways we’d never suspect.
Because it’s National Arts in Education Week—a celebration of “the transformative power of the arts in education”—here are five big reasons why art and arts education are more important now than ever
1). Art Benefits Students… ALL Students
You’ve probably heard that arts curriculum is beneficial to students, but did you know that it benefits all students, even the ones who aren’t particularly artsy?
The work of advocacy organizations like Park West Foundation and Turnaround Arts—programs that specialize in bringing the arts to underperforming schools—has proven that both right- and left-brained kids really do benefit from arts education.
A two-year study revealed that students who participated in programs like Turnaround witnessed an overall 22.5 percent increase in math scores and 12.6 percent improvement in reading scores. If that wasn’t enough, there is further evidence that schools with arts programs do better on standardized test scores as well.
2). Art Makes You Healthier
The National Endowment for the Arts recently released research from the University of Michigan, which notes that: “Older adults who both created art and attended arts events reported higher cognitive functioning and lower rates of both hypertension and limitations to their physical functioning than did adults who neither created nor attended art.”
It’s nice to know continued involvement in the arts doesn’t just benefit youngsters. Even when you’re grown, art literally makes your smarter, stronger, and faster!
3). The Arts Put America to Work
Yes, art can nourish our souls, but it can nourish our families as well. The next time you hear someone suggest that arts funding isn’t an essential expense, remind them that the nonprofit arts and culture industry drove $166.3 billion of economic activity during 2015, according to the Americans for the Arts’ fifth Arts & Economic Prosperity study.
This activity includes 4.6 million jobs and $27.5 billion in government revenue every year. (Wow.)
4). Art Makes Us Happier
The arts can make your kids smarter, they can make you stronger, and they can put money in your pocket, but they’re not done yet—they can also make you feel better too.
Research from the University of Western Australia suggests that exposure to the arts for just two hours every week can drastically improve your mental health and overall well-being. It can be active exposure, like painting a picture, or passive exposure, like strolling through a gallery or museum.
Regardless, in the words of the researchers, “Arts engagement increases happiness, confidence, self-esteem and reduces stress and social isolation.”
5). Art Teaches Us How to Dream
We’re reminded of this fact on a daily basis at Park West Gallery—how art has that unique ability to inspire deeper meanings. Take, for example, this picture sent to us from one of our collectors, Rebecca Blackman, of her young son Romeo:
“From an early age we encouraged Romeo to express his deepest feels with his art, way before he could even speak, and because of this he has grown very fond of art and the art world alike,” Blackman says. “Every passing day, new creations are being made by Romeo, which is really amazing to see, his imagination taking off, and his natural talents flourishing.”
Even if you’re not as talented an artist as Romeo, there’s something about art that teaches us to imagine, aspire, and dream. Can you think of anything more important than that?
Whether you appreciate art on a physical or a metaphysical level, we hope everyone realizes the importance of arts education for people of all ages and continues to support the arts. Because, remember, you gotta have art.
You can learn more about National Arts in Education Week here and, if you’d like to know more about the work being done by the Park West Foundation to support arts education and the welfare of young adults, you can learn more here.