The Arts – Music, Dance, Theater, and the Visual Arts – are crucial to the complete education of a child. Their practice, understanding and appreciation are essential to human experience and learning itself. Research shows that the Arts in education promote brain growth and increased success in all academic areas. The Arts, however, are more than a means to an academic end. They point a way to live a balanced and reasonable life and engender a commitment to excellence. The Arts are not simply a means; they are an end into themselves. The Arts make us human and whole.
A beginning to such an artistic approach to education is to see the Arts in all things. By initiating and infusing our study of things with the Arts we come to use the Arts as a lens for understanding the world. Such a ‘way’ of approaching things offers deeper paths into the meaning and complexity of our world. In the Language Arts we find connections between the visual, the musical and the linguistic. In Mathematics we see more clearly the patterns and harmonics of form and number. In Science we find a kinship between the artistic and the scientific process. In History, we see the human drama in dense brushstrokes of image and sound, song and story, bringing it to life. Seeing ourselves and the world through the Arts allows us to be touched by the beauty and the power and wonder of all things.
Beyond the understanding and appreciation of art is its practice. To practice art means to nurture the space and focus in us that allow the Arts to emerge. Awareness, enthusiasm, discipline and a commitment to furthering our art are all essential qualities we prize. And in a world that emphasizes passivity, the Arts cultivate an active sense of living. Imagine and create much, use your hands, feel your bodies, read much, watch TV little, have hobbies and passions. In this manner, we seek to inspire a passion for learning, a discipline and commitment supported by reflection, self-assessment, critical and creative thinking. These habits of heart and mind unfold in a developmental arc, from the concrete toward the abstract, the simple to the complex. Attention to the appropriateness of activity and media, content and form, helps nurture a deeply imaginative practice of the Arts that seeks its own truth.
To practice the Arts also means to connect with the subject of our art; to be in our bodies and open to our spirit, to be inspired and connected with nature and to draw on the repository of tradition that is imbedded in global culture. In all that there is growing awareness of inter-connection. We become conscious of our feelings and emotions, our dreams and aspirations. We consider the impact and relationship between things. We honor this awareness of inter-connection by considering the attitudes we hold, the way we treat others, the things we buy, the food we eat, and the activities in which we engage. We examine the ecological and the social impact of what we do, seeing the worth of all creatures and all people.
If we are interconnected, then we are already collaborators. This is basic to the experience of the artistic process – to be in relationship, to work with others, to communicate with an audience. In the same spirit, we promote a collaborative spirit among students and teachers, parents, and staff. Parents, students, teachers and staff all share the responsibility of governing the school. Volunteers make the rich opportunities of the school possible, in countless activities ranging from classroom and office help to fundraising. As collaborators, we think the best of each other, resolving conflict in ways that are open and compassionate, healing and conciliatory. This extends from the playground to the council meeting, with all members seeking to model action that serves the good of all.
This collaborative, community-mindedness leads directly to citizenship and service. The Arts are expression but also discourse. Part of what a School of the Arts can offer to the community is the solace and insight that the Arts bring. We see our role as facilitators of the Arts in the community, enriching it with dance and theater, exhibitions and performances, collaborating with other artists, promoting and assisting the vision of arts-based education with other educational entities. And if the Arts can awaken compassion for others, then a fundamental expression of our artistic purpose should be to seek ways to help in the most basic of manners. Food for the hungry, clean rivers for the fish, visits to the elderly, the planting of trees, and the donating of money to good causes all have their place in this spirit of service. For if we understand how the world has given to us, we then naturally wish to return those gifts.
In the end we seek not so much to create artists, as to nurture an artistic attitude and practice. A life immersed in the Arts leads naturally to the successful practice of the art of living. To go into the world with tools of heart and mind able to meet any challenge, with vision and understanding sufficient to see deeply into things, with creativity, resourcefulness, honesty, courage and compassion enough for the many uncertainties of life – this is what we seek for our children, our community and our world.