Pieces of pottery and sculptures constructed from a variety of materials including wood, paper-mâché and clay in various shapes and colors are sprinkled throughout my home.
These works of art were not created by professional artists, but by my own five children. They were taught to create these and other works of art from teachers in our own public schools.
The purpose, of course, of arts in the schools is not simply for students to bring home finished products. The lasting importance comes from the processes they experience and the thinking skills they learn. In fact, numerous studies show the relationship between students participating in the arts and achievement in other areas of the curriculum.
According to a study by Education Week, “Exposure to the arts also affects the values of young people, making them more tolerant and empathetic. We suspect that their awareness of different people, places, and ideas through the arts helps them appreciate and accept the differences they find in the broader world. Arts experiences boost critical thinking, teaching students to take the time to be more careful and thorough in how they observe the world.”
Currently, the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program, which provides arts integration and instruction to schools in Utah, is part of 400 elementary schools in 34 school districts. Arts specialists, trained in music, drama, visual arts and dance, are put in the schools to teach the students. But, in addition to that, regular classroom teachers are learning ways to integrate the arts throughout the school day.
Hundreds of teachers from Utah County participate several times each year in the Evening for Educators, part of the StateWide Art Partnership with funding from the state legislature and board of education.
These evenings are held at museums and galleries across the state and feature keynote speakers, tours, workshops and educational materials. These teachers know how important it is to bring the arts back to their students.
We all have a chance to show support for the arts next month by attending the 46th Annual Utah All-State High School Art Show at the Springville Museum of Art. At the show, visitors can view works of art created by juniors and seniors from almost every high school in the state. These will be displayed on the main level of the museum from Feb. 3 through March 23. Admission to the museum is free.
An opening reception for the show will be held on Saturday, Feb. 3 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Visitors can celebrate the opening with refreshments and by viewing the artworks.
The All-State High School Art Show may surprise many visitors, as it did me when I first attended. Each piece is unique and it is hard to believe students created them. This year’s show will feature 300 artworks. Every year is different. This year, there will be a salon-style wall featuring portraits drawn by the high school students in addition to the other works. The annual show is something everyone should see.