Arts in the schools serve their purpose

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 21, 2003

There was a wonderful sight at the Spring Fling - a clothesline art show much like the one the Star-News held for the Sept. 11 observation at the Visual Arts League of Andalusia's fall festival. VALA displayed rows and rows of student art, from the

charmingly primitive to the profoundly talented. But staring at these wonderful childhood expressions was also saddening – as proration eats into the budget of every public school in this state, it is the art classes that seem to suffer first.

I understand the need for math, English, Social Studies and science. I understand the need for physical education, especially as America's obesity problem in children is growing at a frightening rate. But I believe that the arts are important as well - they teach children that there is more to life than punching a time clock or picking up a pay check at the end of the week.

On a purely practical level, creating art, no matter how "good" it is or isn't, develops eye-hand coordination that can only help a child later, whether he is a machinist or a surgeon. Studying the great works of art is part of studying history, since each work tells so much of its era and the people who lived then and there. Studying art enriches the soul as much as studying math enriches a bank account.

Autistic children, or others who have trouble with the "outside" world can often express themselves through art. Even the very shy, or those who find it hard to put their emotions into words, can open up through crayon and paper.

Those who want schools dedicated to fast track, hard line study designed to get children jobs as soon as they graduate need to keep the arts in mind - many of the new fields that are wide open for our future wage earners are computer and computer-graphics oriented. No matter how much help a

computer assisted drafting program can give you, you've to have some basic knowledge of art and style – and the place to get that is art class.

Some might say I'm biased - I do art myself, some sketching, cartooning and watercolors. My husband paints and creates stained glass wonders. But music is included in this concern, and my musical abilities are limited to putting on a CD - and there have been time's I've had to have my kids show me how to do that. Music has beyond the shadow of a doubt been proven to increase and enhance math skills.

The arts create a three-dimensional education, not one just limited charitable facts and diagrammable sentences. As we finagle budgets and teachers, trying to force our system into better shape with less money, let's work as hard as we can to keep the arts going in the schools.

Mary Reeves is the Neighbors

editor and a regular columnist

for the Star-News.