Top 10 skills children learn from the arts

Valerie Strauss – January 22, 2013 – Washington Post

You don’t find school reformers talking much about how we need to train more teachers in the arts, given the current obsession with science, math, technology and engineering (STEM), but here’s a list of skills that young people learn from studying the arts. They serve as a reminder that the arts — while important to study for their intrinsic value — also promote skills seen as important in academic and life success. (That’s why some people talk  about changing the current national emphasis on STEM to STEAM.) This was written by Lisa Phillips is an author, blog journalist, arts and leadership educator, speaker and business owner. To learn about Lisa’s book, “The Artistic Edge: 7 Skills Children Need to Succeed in an Increasingly Right Brain World,” click here. This appeared on the ARTSblog, a program of Americans for the Arts.

By Lisa Phillips

  1. Creativity– Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program, your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career.
  2. Confidence– The skills developed through theater, not only train you how to convincingly deliver a message, but also build the confidence you need to take command of the stage. Theater training gives children practice stepping out of their comfort zone and allows them to make mistakes and learn from them in rehearsal. This process gives children the confidence to perform in front of large audiences.
  3. Problem Solving– Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? How will my character react in this situation? Without even realizing it kids that participate in the arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems. All this practice problem solving develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding. This will help develop important problem-solving skills necessary for success in any career.
  4. Perseverance– When a child picks up a violin for the first time, she/he knows that playing Bach right away is not an option; however, when that child practices, learns the skills and techniques and doesn’t give up, that Bach concerto is that much closer. In an increasingly competitive world, where people are being asked to continually develop new skills, perseverance is essential to achieving success.
  5. Focus – The ability to focus is a key skill developed through ensemble work. Keeping a balance between listening and contributing involves a great deal of concentration and focus. It requires each participant to not only think about their role, but how their role contributes to the big picture of what is being created. Recent research has shown that participation in the arts improves children’s abilities to concentrate and focus in other aspects of their lives.
  6. Non-Verbal Communication– Through experiences in theater and dance education, children learn to breakdown the mechanics of body language. They experience different ways of moving and how those movements communicate different emotions. They are then coached in performance skills to ensure they are portraying their character effectively to the audience.
  7. Receiving Constructive Feedback– Receiving constructive feedback about a performance or visual art piece is a regular part of any arts instruction. Children learn that feedback is part of learning and it is not something to be offended by or to be taken personally. It is something helpful. The goal is the improvement of skills and evaluation is incorporated at every step of the process. Each arts discipline has built in parameters to ensure that critique is a valuable experience and greatly contributes to the success of the final piece.
  8. Collaboration– Most arts disciplines are collaborative in nature. Through the arts, children practice working together, sharing responsibility, and compromising with others to accomplish a common goal. When a child has a part to play in a music ensemble, or a theater or dance production, they begin to understand that their contribution is necessary for the success of the group. Through these experiences children gain confidence and start to learn that their contributions have value even if they don’t have the biggest role.
  9. Dedication– When kids get to practice following through with artistic endeavors that result in a finished product or performance, they learn to associate dedication with a feeling of accomplishment. They practice developing healthy work habits of being on time for rehearsals and performances, respecting the contributions of others, and putting effort into the success of the final piece. In the performing arts, the reward for dedication is the warm feeling of an audience’s applause that comes rushing over you, making all your efforts worthwhile.
  10. Accountability– When children practice creating something collaboratively they get used to the idea that their actions affect other people. They learn that when they are not prepared or on-time, that other people suffer. Through the arts, children also learn that it is important to admit that you made a mistake and take responsibility for it. Because mistakes are a regular part of the process of learning in the arts, children begin to see that mistakes happen. We acknowledge them, learn from them and move on.
Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.

 Follow @valeriestrauss

Our thanks to the Washington Post.

Letter to California Department of Education

To: California Dept. of Education (via email)
Date: 8/25/2017 2:40 PM

Subject: Please include Visual and Performing Arts in ESSA Plan

Dear California Dept. of Education,

I know this is a form letter – but the Anaheim Arts Council agrees with every word of it. We are amazed that Visual and Performing Arts language is absent from ESSA. The Ed Code still regards the arts as CORE. And so do all arts teachers and advocates. The arts are crucial to well-rounded student development.

As today is the deadline for public comment on the state plan to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), I am writing to respectfully urge the California Department of Education to include the Visual and Performing Arts alongside other content areas in the plan:

1. “Visual and Performing Arts” must be included any time content areas are mentioned in the plan.

2. As they are described in the California Education Code as well as state standards, please use the “Visual and Performing Arts” when referencing the arts.

Please support arts education as part of a well-rounded education for all California students. California must include the Visual and Performing Arts in its state plan, as 17 other states have done.


Michael Buss, on behalf of Anaheim Arts Council

NOTE: Most of the content of this letter was supplied by the California Alliance for Arts Education.

Beautiful Santa Ana Murals

Two women walk along an alley past a two-story mural painted on the back of a building just south of 4th Street between Bush and Main Streets in downtown Santa Ana, on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

In our Arts and the City proposals to the City of Anaheim we recommended that more murals be added to our cityscape.

Today the OC Register reproduced 17 striking murals you can find around Santa Ana. They are inspirational. They are great examples of what we in Anaheim could do!

Scan through the slide show here.

Here’s another…

A two-story mural is painted on the parking structure at the intersection of 3rd and Broadway Streets in downtown Santa Ana, on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Health Teaching Wreaks Havoc With The Arts

A new directive from Sacramento is requiring that all pupils from grades 7-12 receive comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education. See the California Healthy Youth Act, for details.

Sounds like a good idea? Sure. Probably. After all, the total tuition time may only be about 11 hours. But here’s the downside.

Additional classes have to be added to the curriculum. To fill those classes students need to be pulled from other electives. That means courses like AVID and the arts get hammered. Let’s add some stats to this.

A musical example
Suppose a middle school band director teaches about 230 kids each week – 6 periods a day. He is teaching raw beginners to read music and play simple tunes in Beginning Band. The best of these move into Advanced Band and Jazz Band the following year. Now, take 80 kids out of the beginning band program to teach HIV prevention. This immediately reduces the population of kids who will be good enough for the following year’s Advanced and Jazz band. In fact, one of those bands will probably have to be dropped. Yet it was the pride of the school and always performed at school wide and festive events.

The results are yet more dire, since the high school band to which the advanced musicians will go completely depends on the middle school for its new band members. (High school does not teach beginners.) Now the high school band program is compromised and cannot get enough musicians to sustain its traditionally excellent program. The band becomes a shadow of its former excellence.

All because the junior high school kids needed 11 hours of sex education.

The same with drama
Here is a drama teacher who for many years taught five Beginner classes and one Advanced drama class. On average one fifth of the kids in beginning drama move into advanced drama the following year. These advanced kids then move to high school and become the core of the high school program.

Now comes the state mandated health program and the middle school administrator pulls out 70 kids from the drama program. Note – this is exactly what will happen come this fall when schools will return from summer break. The drama teacher no longer has a full time drama program and for the first time ever is required to teach Speech (for instance). Her beginning classes drop from 5 to 3 for a total of about 105 students. The math applies: about one fifth of these beginners will qualify for advanced drama – a class of about 21 students. This is a drastic reduction from the usual 35 students with whom the teacher may stage about 6 shows in a year. This smaller number moves up to high school, only to weaken that theatre program.

Of course, it is not just the band or drama program that gets hit, but almost any elective program. Some have already had to close. And for what? – For 11 hours of state mandated health tuition.

Academic dilution
Hundreds, maybe thousands of students, simply do not get a second elective. Instead they go on the wheel. The wheel consists of four, nine-week courses ranging from speech, home economics, Mandarin, forensics, marine biology, exploring medical careers, etc.  One may argue that kids should rightly be exposed to a greater variety of academic subjects. The trouble is that these are junior high kids, many of whom still read poorly and struggle with math and history. The diversification introduced by the wheel may prove to be a drastic dilution of learning.

The Anaheim Union High School District has approved the policy of Equal Rights in Arts Learning – which you may read here on this blog. The Board has no sooner signed up to the highest ideals for arts education than they immediately undercut it and deprive hundreds of kids of an arts education, cutting deeply into well established and successful arts programs.

Finding other solutions
There are other way to comply with the California Healthy Youth Act by means of after school classes, or Saturday School. Apparently there are limitations on who may teach the health classes; and those teachers do not necessarily want to teach on Saturday, in spite of the fact they they would get paid. Districts have flexibility in how the health program may be taught.

As a voice representing the community in Anaheim we recognize the value of teaching the Healthy Youth program but not at the expense of so much damage to arts programs.



Arts and the City of Anaheim

Summary Policy Proposals for Anaheim City Council

NOTE: July 14, 2017. This statement was prepared with a window of only a couple of days in which to contribute to the City’s budgeting process — which is now complete. The board will now take the time revise the contents and re-publish.

Our city strives to live up to the ideal of Anaheim: City of Kindness.
Many qualities combine to make a city great: Kindness, Education, Business, Sports, Faith, Safety, etc. The social glue that provides a tangible and qualitative bond to the fabric of the community is the Visual and Performing Arts as expressed in culture.

  1. Research task force
    1. Before we assume we already know how to employ the arts as “social glue”, or as a means to address community needs (see #2), we propose the set up of a precursor task force, to identify areas of greatest needs and engage in the conversation with communities so they can tell the task force how arts and culture might enable their highest aspirations.
  2. Cultural Arts Based Social Integration
    1. Cultural events can unintentionally divide if they only serve one or two cultural niches. Well-planned multi-cultural events are a means to bring whole communities together to celebrate each other’s history, culture, food, music and arts.
    2. A major objective of our cultural arts proposals is to enable all immigrants to settle into Anaheim – a place where they truly feel at home.
    3. Anaheim could encourage district based cultural activities as a means to the removal of neighborhood social barriers and the betterment of community understanding.
    4. The WAND Barbeque could be an example of such a community event.
    5. Multi-cultural activities should be integrated into the Mayor’s Welcoming Anaheim initiative.
    6. Such events will therefore engage almost every strata of the community from the people themselves to non-profits, local shops, law enforcement, the fire department, schools and places of worship.
  3. Annual City Wide Multi-Cultural Arts Festival
    1. The City currently provides easy access to free or low cost events such as Movies Under the Stars and Concerts in the Park (subsidized in part by grants from the Anaheim Arts Council.)
    2. The City could invite city wide (or even county wide) sponsorship and participation to promote an annual week-long, or weekend, multi-cultural arts festival.
    3. Such a multi-cultural arts festival could include a sponsored plein-air competition for artists from across the United States. A city-wide festival would utilize many venues and feature visual and performing arts that represent the background and culture of the many ethnicities that now live in Anaheim.
    4. The focal point for evening and weekend performance could be Convention Way. At this festival all of Anaheim’s arts from elementary schools to professional performing artists could find a place. This could be the largest cultural event in the whole of Orange County.
    5. Anaheim should revisit its policy that inhibits the use of banners across streets at times of festivity. Nobody driving though the Orange Circle area in our neighboring city can fail to appreciate the sense of expectancy when their street banners invite everyone to share the food, fun, and festivity.
    6. As an alternative and less ambitious project it might be desirable fully to participate in the Orange County Imagination Celebration. This would engage the currently existing arts organizations.
    7. Reference
  4. Art in the Public Domain
    1. Most great cities take pride in their public art: architecture, landscaping, monuments & sculpture, galleries and murals.
    2. Historically this has best been effected by public/private co-operation.
    3. The City should work with the volunteer agencies to identify and catalog all public arts assets, including murals.
    4. Public art should be preserved as far as possible, and when compromised by construction projects or poor visibility, art pieces should be moved and repositioned. While public art may not be sacrosanct, careful consideration should always be given before it is scrapped.
    5. The City could invite the public to participate in identifying walls where murals would beautify the space, and encourage businesses to commission works of art on their blank exterior walls.
    6. Selected empty wall space could be allocated for those whose art form is graffiti! (This should exclude gang graffiti).  Periodically the space(s) could be cleaned up to allow further iterations of graffiti. It is possible this scheme could be a cost saving to the city.
    7. We suggest an annual sculpture competition (maybe sponsored by a major bank) in which sculptors of all kinds bring their works to Anaheim, perhaps making them over the course of a week. The event would attract the public in large numbers, who would be able to vote for their favorite pieces. The winning entry, or entries, would be purchased and installed in Anaheim, whether on public or private land – but accessible to all. This has been done with great success in other parts of the US. Refer to Brent Dennis.
    8. The City should examine the City of Brea’s Arts In Public Places policies: Note, its ordinance requiring businesses building premises costing $1.5m or more to provide an item of public art.
    9. Anaheim Arts Council currently gives special recognition to new public art each November at a special meeting in the Council Chambers. This event would be made more effective with City support and collaboration with the Cultural and Heritage Commission.
  5. Business and the Arts
    1. We propose that the City, with the Anaheim Arts Council, encourage synergy between business and the arts. The arts, in their widest expression, contribute massively to the economy of Orange County.
    2. We propose the development of a suitable platform that makes the case for the value of a vibrant relationship between business and the arts. Some of the connections might include:
      1. Summer arts interns
      2. Direct sponsorship of arts organizations and artists
      3. Reciprocal input to business from the arts, including improv and theatre as a means to develop understanding in the workplace.
      4. As a matter of policy, artwork displayed within business premises might be acquired from local Anaheim artists.
      5. Input from sponsored arts groups at company celebratory events, conferences and educational sessions.
      6. We approve of the way the arts are given visibility through the annual State of the City event.
    3. A scheme for how business and arts could find new synergy could be worked up by an ad hoc group of capable volunteers from Disney, the City, the Cultural and Heritage Commission and the Anaheim Arts Council, Anaheim Small Business Organization and the Chamber of Commerce.
  6. Poetry Set Free
    1. We enthusiastically support the appointment of a Poet Laureate for Anaheim and anticipate the plan reaching completion in the near future.
    2. A poet laureate brings immense value to a city quite aside from poetic perorations at city events. His/her role in schools and public places stimulates the imagination, instills a love of language, encourages the high skills of metaphor, critical insight and the sense of self worth and achievement. Poetry slams, RAP slams, have a considerable appeal to the young.
    3. As an exemplar, the City should take note of the enormous appeal of the musical Hamilton, an extraordinary combination of rap poetry, music, multi-culturalism and history that has overflowed into our schools and the popular imagination – even for those who have never seen the show.
  7. The MUZEO
    1. The City already provides substantial financial support to the MUZEO each year as the MUZEO is an important focal point for education, engagement and conversation about arts and culture.
    2. The Arts Council strongly supports the work of the MUZEO
    3. There could be better collaboration between the MUZEO and  businesses that occupy the downtown area.
    4. Endeavour to make the MUZEO more accessible for vehicles and pedestrians, perhaps with dedicated parking spots on Broadway.
    5. As an immediate measure the City could agree to install diagonal crosswalks at the Anaheim/Broadway intersection to improve access to the Muzeo and the Center Street area.
    6. Like the Muzeo there are other arts organizations needing space for their programming. Perhaps other city property could be found for occasional extension purposes.
    7. See #10, below.
  8. Anaheim Performing Arts Center
    1. The successful building of a Performing Arts Center will bring great financial benefit to the City and truly elevate Anaheim to being the City of the Arts.
    2. Doubts persist as to whether Anaheim Performing Arts Center Foundation could ever raise the likely half billion price tab within the designated timeframe, but we commend the city for its vision and determination to work with APACF over the four year ENA period
    3. There are those who question whether so much should be spent on a prestige performing arts center, or the City make the land available so cheaply while other needs in Anaheim are so great.
    4. It should be noted, however, that major construction projects – whether they be roads, hotels, convention centers, or whatever – generally proceed with the calculus that the investment also brings benefits to communities with the facilities and jobs they provide; and revenue to the City. There is no reason why a state of the art Performing Arts Center should be any different. Provided that planning and (very stringent) fund-raising requirements can be met this center will be Anaheim’s jewel in the crown.
  9. Resident Arts Companies
    1. Anaheim has officially recognized three arts organizations as Resident companies: Anaheim Ballet, the Orange County Symphony and the Chance Theatre.
    2. All have received benefits from the city in various way which we need not specify here. But those benefits do not directly translate to much needed cash flow.
    3. The City might consider creating budget line items for arts and culture in general and additional cash grants to these resident companies on some equitable basis. The needs of the Symphony are possibly the greatest. (See #12)
    4. The City might, however, consider that the new grant application program is sufficient to address these needs.
  10. Downtown Celebration Park
    1. Open public spaces and parks afford opportunities for families to relax and children to play. For these to be effective such spaces need ready access to refreshments, shade, electrical outlets, and restrooms.
    2. We believe the City could identify many additional open spaces where pop-up food stands and entertainments could enliven a neighborhood and reduce the need for car travel to existing parks. With a simple system of permitting communities would determine how they could best use the space.
    3. The use of school grounds and facilities for the community has always been complex, but this should not deter ongoing efforts to make school grounds available to the public for special activities
    4. The MUZEO needs to be integrated into a wider and more congenial surrounding area such that this becomes a prime gathering place for residents and tourists.
    5. The Farmer’s Park concept seems very effective. We propose that with a long term view, and incredible vision and resolution, the City could designate the entire area of Anaheim Boulevard from City Hall to the Packing House, and some way into adjoining streets,  into a pedestrian-only area and to provide lawns, trees, fountains, assembly places. Then the MUZEO would become part of what we might call a Downtown Celebration Park. Pride of place would be City Hall.
  11. The Cultural and Heritage Commission
    1. Since its inception the Commission has been responsible for making recommendations to the city on matters of art and culture. They operate without a budget.
    2. The Commission has been given the responsibility to see to the implementation of the Cultural Arts Plan of 2000 and tasked with oversight of public art.
    3. In reality Community Services and the Anaheim Arts Council have probably more engaged and active with the aspects of the Cultural Arts Plan, and Art in Public Places (AIPP) over many years.
    4. We therefore propose closer collaboration between the Commission and the Anaheim Arts Council, particularly in the process of identifying, cataloging and recognition of public Arts.
    5. We propose that the responsibilities of the Cultural and Heritage Commission be revisited and strengthened, that it work more closely with other arts organizations, that it have a budget, and have the capability to perpetuate its agenda across succeeding years even though commissioners change.
  12. Budgeting for the Arts
    1. There is little debate that every great city which ever cared about its self image, its architectural ambience, and the quality of life for its citizens has invested in the arts. Great cathedrals, mighty galleries, magnificent central piazzas, grand coliseums, spectacular gardens, memorials of valiant victories, they have, in varying degrees, been the outcome of philanthropy combined with the public purse.
    2. The Anaheim Arts Council recognizes the enormous contribution of Community Services to the lives of the people of Anaheim through their imaginative arts and cultural programs, and the dedicated service of it personnel.
    3. Anaheim City Council should consider that the value of the arts is so great that it would be an oversight not to make further budget allocations to support the arts and at least some of the policy recommendations described in this document.

Art is the emotional order of life.
Art is the bridge which underscores everything.

Playing Catchup

We should really have started a blog a long time ago. So much of the fabulous material we have written and published on the site of the Anaheim Arts Council has all been retained in a database and can readily be retrieved — if you know how! The snag is that search engines cannot index databases.

But they can index blogs!

This makes it way easier for the things we write to be found on Google. So from now on we will add blogging to our regular diet of Newsletters and published articles. Let’s see how this works out. Your comments will be more than welcome.

Declaration of the Rights of All Students to Equity in Arts Learning

(This is the adopted policy of the Anaheim Arts Council: May 2017)

CREATE CA defines EQUITY in Arts Education* as the right of every student to engage and succeed in powerful, high quality, standards-based arts learning Pre-K12. All students from every race, culture, language background, geographic region, and socio-economic level must have the opportunity to fully develop their own artistic, cultural, and linguistic heritage while expanding opportunities to study and explore artistic expressions across different cultures and time periods.

*We define arts education to include courses of study and interdisciplinary learning in dance, music, theatre, and visual and media arts, aligned with the State Standards and reflecting the provisions of the California State Education Code.

1. The right to equitable access to PreK-12 free, coherent, and sequential standards-based arts learning that is part of the core curriculum and that provides both integrated and discrete visual and performing arts learning opportunities; and the right to equitable outcomes as a result of this access, without distinction on account of race, culture, language, religion, national origin, geographical location, or legal status.

“I have the right to participate and succeed in high-quality courses in all the arts disciplines as part of my basic education, regardless of my background, culture, language or place of residence.”

2. The right to special protection for every student’s artistic and aesthetic development. The right to protection from policies and practices that exclude or preclude certain students or populations from equitable access to and success in powerful and coherent arts learning PreK-12.

I have the same right to fully develop my creative potential at every grade level and not be excluded for any reason.”

3. The right to arts learning that is culturally and linguistically responsive and relevant, with attention to those populations that have traditionally been excluded or precluded, such as English Learners, students of color, foster youth, homeless youth, students in poverty, migrant students, and special needs students.

“I have the right to engage in arts education that reflects, respects and builds on my culture, language and background.”

4. The right to arts learning programs in every school, district, and community that are funded and supported with the necessary resources, including qualified administrators, teachers, teaching artists, and other staff, adequate materials, and appropriate facilities to support powerful culturally and linguistically responsive arts learning.

“I have the right to receive the resources I need to be successful in my arts studies in dance, music, theatre, media and visual arts, including the proper supplies and facilities, and especially qualified teachers and curriculum that honor all cultures and languages.”

5. The right to educators, leaders, and parents/community who are knowledgeable about the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of arts learning for individual students, families/communities, the nation, and global society.

“I have the right to be supported by leaders in my community and school who understand the benefits of an arts education to prepare me for college, career and life.”

6. The right to be brought up in school and community environments that value and protect the arts and equity as essential to the full development of every student, and that demonstrate those values/beliefs in their public policies and practices.

“I have the right to learn and practice the arts in a positive environment where everyone understands and acts on the knowledge that I am engaging in valuable and important work.”

Reproduced from Create California

NOTE: This Declaration was also approved by a 5-0 vote of the board of the Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) in May 2107. We wish them every success as they try to make the policy effective in the face of falling enrollment and other pressures.