How do I know that the arts are important and, therefore, need to be integrated in our schools?
Because whenever people want to celebrate, they turn to the arts. I recently had a birthday and I was struck with how true this is. When I had family come to visit for the occasion, what did we do? We went to dinner, we went to a drive-in and had yummy and beautiful desserts – all of which require artistry and creativity. When I sat before my yummy dessert with a lit candle, my family sang to me. Visual art, theater, and music – done.
On my actual birthday all day I received birthday serenades on my voicemail that I can preserve and listen to whenever I need a little pick me up because that’s what music can do. It’s not only a wonderful way to celebrate but it’s a great mood changer as well!
When I sat down to open my birthday cards and gifts I was noticing how just from the font of the card I knew whether it would be a funny or sentimental message. One card was a basic photograph that looked like it had fallen into the hands of someone with a Bedazzler and been transformed into something fun and fanciful. The words within each card along with the artwork were crafted to elicit laughter, smiles, even tears combining the visual with language arts. Although I did not receive a musical card this year, I have received many over the years and I love them. The more art forms integrated at once the better!
Of course along with opening cards came opening presents. I don’t know about you but one of my favorite parts of opening gifts is admiring the wrapping paper and ribbons. One of my sisters really outdid herself this year. Not only was the paper design playful and colorful but so were the various bows she created from different ribbons and different colored tulle. And many of the gifts I received enclosed in those beautiful wrappings from all my family members were artistic in nature: a beautiful blouse, a colorful scarf, a cleverly designed t-shirt, a pair of earrings, a handmade candle. None of this would exist without artists to make them.
I learned years ago about a culture that did not even have a word for any of the arts; the arts were so integrated into everyday life there was no need for separate words to refer to them. If our instincts as humans are to utilize the arts in our everyday life and turn to them as a way to mark celebrations, shouldn’t we also use them in our learning? If arts are naturally integrated into our daily life they should be integrated into our daily learning.
I know that, once again, I am preaching to the choir but I find that sometimes it helps me for people to remind me of the obvious to strengthen my convictions and keep me aware of just how prevalent the arts are in our everyday lives. So next time you celebrate a birthday, remember to notice the artistry woven into the fabric of your special day and let it remind you of the power and importance of the arts.
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.