The Importance of Artistry
" The future...
of our nation depends on our ability to create-and to be creative. During the coming decades our most important national resources will be human resources. If our nation is to continue to meet the challenges of the future, todays schools need to develop creative leaders."
- Performing Together: the Arts and Education.
For all of you out there wanting to become actively involved in the arts, or even (dare I mention it) pursue a career in the arts, let me give you a heads up on a conversation you will have time and time again. It goes a little something like this...
"You work in the arts?! That's brave. That career is so unpredictable. I could never work in the creative field."
For me personally, I believe everyone works in a creative field...some just don't realize it. I want to encourage everyone to see that the benefits of the arts are NOT ONLY FOR THOSE WHO PURSUE IT AS A CAREER. I believe, and will preach until I'm blue in the face, that involvement in the arts is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT for those who DO NOT PURSUE A CAREER IN THE ARTS!
(I hear your "huh's?" through the screen. So let me hop up on my soap box for a few minutes to explain!)
Artistry is at the core of our society, our democracy, our joy, and our human expression. To overlook its impact and importance as an educational developmental tool is limiting to a student's growth! At the very basic level, it is easy to detect the benefits; public speaking, self-confidence, quick thinking, problem solving and self-discipline are a few simple and well-known gains of a practice in the arts. These are skills that can be translated into any other work environment to give the student an edge in their field. But it goes way deeper and becomes way more powerful than that.
The most crucial and all-encompassing skill is arguably communication. Theater was created in the late 6th century BC, legend has it, by someone named Thespis. In its simplest form, theater is public dialogue (usually conflicting) meant to provoke conversation, opinion, and understanding. Drama provides training in the very practical aspects of communication so necessary in today’s increasingly information-centered and digital world. An artist learns to communicate with their ensemble and creative teams which, as hierarchical leadership is starting to take a back seat to more team-oriented work spaces, is becoming a crucial skill. They learn, also, the importance of communicating with your audience, making sure all of your thoughts and actions are received in the way that you intended. When you are being so intentional about your actions and words, you will soon find that your heart will also speak. This creates an environment that is vulnerable, but also empathetic. You will find a new depth of understanding and respect in ideas and actions that are not your own. In today’s increasingly polarized and intolerant culture, the ability to understand others’ motives and choices is critical. When performers on stage trust one another and see the benefits of each individual's unique contributions and gifts, something beautiful happens. You laugh together, you cry together, you move forward even in the midst of disagreements, you rely on one another, and you care for one another. In this, drama can help build compassionate creative citizens and leaders. Doesn’t that sound good right about now?
In addition to its intrinsic creative value, drama will reinforce your school curriculum. The individual will be better able to understand ideas in history and current events. The link between dramatic arts and subjects such as English, history, social studies and related areas is obvious. The study of literature would be impossible without drama. There are also important periods of our collective history in which virtually all surviving information and documentation is artistic! When used as a way of kinesthetic and active learning, studies show again and again an improvement of understanding and retention.
Lastly, it encourages creation! New work is the only way our society moves forward. Being inspired, finding a passion and building connections with people who believe in that journey with you! I dare you to tell me you've never felt a spark after seeing a theater performance, been moved by a marketing campaign, been inspired by a powerful speech, stood in awe of architecture, experienced a sense of escape from reading a book you couldn't put down, or felt the overwhelming joy from dancing with no inhibitions with people you love. This is artistry!
Let me be clear! I am not suggesting everyone should pursue a career in the arts. I am suggesting everyone should pursue a life filled with the arts!
In my experience of working in professional theater and teaching students of all ages and backgrounds, this is the number one lesson I have come away with and hope to pass along to others: A student of the arts will go on to any field with the self-assurance and experience in making meaningful connections and collaborations, being able to speak their mind with grace and confidence, the ability to be quick on their feet and thoughtful in their actions and to always be creative and find the joy in their work and play!
In practicing art, whether it be theatre, dance, writing, painting, etc, we are expanding ourselves as human beings. Artistry is an inherent part of being a human being…
some of us just get to spend a lot more of our lives practicing it.