Youth arts education is imperative | Opinion

Pat Mitchell-Worley, Guest Columnist 
Published 4 a.m.| December 12. 2020 | The Daily Memphian

I believe art is not just a “feel-good,” esoteric aesthetic. Art is not just about the intangible. Art is not just about the now.

In a year weighed down by the daily struggle and short-term, significant impacts of a pandemic on our households, organizations and communities, we forget to look further. It’s almost impossible to look further.

However, for our youths, these formative years, COVID-ridden or not, will directly shape what Memphis looks like in decades.

Our culture and commerce today are built on the innovation of generations before us. Most, if not all, business executives will argue that innovation is important to the growth strategy and sustainability of a business. Innovation comes from creativity. It’s through arts education that kids learn to hone and mold and grow creativity, which they’ll use for the rest of their lives.

We have to be intentional in fostering these skills for new generations. Discipline and creativity are expectations today — and that is what the arts teach.

Youth arts education is imperative.

At Stax Music Academy, we took our curriculum to the virtual classroom in March, continuing to include mental health in our programs. We fostered small group sessions to help students cope with the constant changes and just the stress of living in the time of a global pandemic. If it was not for the general operating support we received from ArtsMemphis, it would have been difficult for us to offer that service to young people. I am so grateful we could.

Understandably, there has been so much focus on how adults are coping during this global pandemic and jumping to solve our systemic problems. Our Stax summer songwriting contest, which we opened to students across the Mid-South, made this very evident. These students’ original anthems were deeply powerful — and, as I listened to their lyrics, I recognized that young people did not otherwise have an outlet to express their frustrations, their pain and their ideas.

So how do we give kids that outlet but also keep them on that trajectory? By investing in youth arts education.

Art is about something far deeper than someone painting a picture or playing a song.

Art is the reason that we go through struggles we go through.

Art tells stories. It connects us as human beings. It makes us better.

This is not just about the “now” — it’s about our collective future. This is about our role as contributing citizens.

Invest in the arts today for a powerful return in the future.

To celebrate the work artists and arts organizations have created in 2020 despite the pandemic, ArtsMemphis introduced its inaugural Arts Week Dec. 7-13. ArtsMemphis provides grants to 70 arts organization.


Posted by Josie Ballin at 08:41
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