The Power of the Arts

Rachael - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on March 4, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe in the support of the arts. From donating money to a theatre company, to attending a choir performance, to handing a child a box of crayons, it is all worthwhile. Speaking from personal experience, artistic expression does so much good for a person that the value is immeasurable. Not only do the arts enrich the person involved in them, but their support also enriches the community. When the arts are a vital part of one’s day to day life, everything seems more meaningful.

When I was in the eighth grade, my father asked me if I wanted to transfer to an arts academy in Jacksonville, Florida for high school instead of continuing at the tiny, private Catholic school I was currently enrolled at in Atlanta, Georgia. After saying yes, auditioning for the performance theatre department, being accepted, and starting classes, I began to notice quite a change in my day to day life. Being shy, close-minded, and three hundred and forty-six miles from home did not help when I suddenly found myself surrounded by people who where just the opposite of me. I was very scared.

Slowly but surely I began to loose that isolated feeling when I’d step out of my father’s car as he would drop me off at school in the morning. The more involved I got with my classes and the shows that we were producing, the less I began to hate my classmates for being liberal, homosexual, or different from me in any way. When in Catholic school, I was one of the crowd – we all wore uniforms, took the same classes, gossiped about the same things, and frequented all the same places. In this new artistic environment I was one of a kind, as was every other one of my peers. My classmates were more willing to pass off my conservative views as unimportant and just focus on being my friend, despite what I thought of the president at the time.

Not only did they accept me, but I began to accept them as well. I became less judgmental about their views and philosophies, their lifestyles, and who they chose to date. I even came to adopt some of their views. I can fully credit this transformation to my immersion in the arts. In theatre classes I was exposed to the works of playwrights such as Samuel Becket, Athol Fugard, Edward Albee, William Inge, and many more. Seeing the world through the eyes of those who were fiercely different than myself caused me to become more aware of what exactly was going on outside the confines of my sheltered life. Instead of standing behind what my mother and father stood for just because it was what I had grown up with, I began to formulate my own thoughts and opinions. Over the course of my four year education at an arts school I grew from an exact replication of my family’s ideals and into a confidant young woman who knew her place in the world.

I believe in supporting the arts not only because of the benefits the participants reap, but also because of the profound effect art can have on a community. Whether it be a group of impoverished men and women gathering together in a rundown church on the east side of Jacksonville, amidst the pimps and crack dealers to perform their annual Christmas concert, a group of art students showcasing their newest anti-war paintings and films on college campuses across the country, or a storefront theatre catering to the upper class patrons in the ritzy Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park, the arts can have a profound impact on those who witness them. When a person is an active part of good art, it is impossible not to take away some meaning from that experience. Whatever meaning the person walks away with will stew in their head until they find themselves in a certain situation or confronted with a particular problem where their experience in the theatre, the art gallery, or the concert hall will be applicable.

I have witnessed firsthand the way the arts can change not just one person, but the masses. I feel that children who grow up without going to concerts, theatre performances, museums, or anything of the like are truly missing out. The arts open a child’s eyes to a world outside their bedroom walls and allow them to visit lands they will never actually get to see outside their imagination. Arts education also makes children, and people in general, more open and tolerant towards views that differ from their own. Overall, a rich immersion in the arts produces a developed, well-rounded, and highly intelligent person.