Tuesday, January 22, 2013

An Artistic Education

There has been an ongoing debate for years that the arts in education is not a proper way to learn. Those who are against the arts think of it as a waste of time and money as well as citing that teaching students artistic skills such as painting and sculpting are skills that one cannot use in a work environment that is not related to the arts. People who are for teaching the arts in our schools claim that it enriches lives, provides a positive outlook for a child as well as a break from the norm of text book studying. The Manchester Bidwell Center in Pittsburgh is living proof that arts can provide a safe and nurturing environment for children. 

Manchester Bidwell Center's founder Bill Strickland who is also the author of the book, Make the Impossible Possible, does just what the title of his book insinuates. Bill Strickland created an environment that teaches the arts as well as providing a safe haven for those seeking it in the middle of one of Pittsburgh's worst neighborhoods. Before Strickland first officially started the center, he invited children in to provide pottery lessons. However, it seemed that the students were so enriched by the lessons that it helped them in their perspective schools. Teachers and community leaders noticed the same kids were not only coming to school more, but they were also behaving and performing better in the classroom.

In what ways do the arts in an educational environment help children?

This is the one of the most important aspects when an education in the arts is provided. Competition is scarce among the students. The homework is not demanding in the traditional sense. Teaching the arts provides a warm environment. Strickland's initial idea of the art center as a nineteen year old college student was to provide a place to "shield the kids from all the poison on the streets." This saved many of the kids futures and lives. The idea of going to a place that does not put an emphasis on grades or results must be very inviting for the thousands of kids that go there each year. 

The arts also provide a stimulating environment as well. However, part of it has nothing to do with the task at hand. The arts provide a warm and encouraging environment that promotes those to be kind and courteous to others. Ben Cameron states that, "We must seize and celebrate the power of the arts to shape our individual and national character and especially the character of our young people, who all to often are subjected to the bombardment of sensation rather than a digestive experience." This reflection on one's character is how the environment helps a child grow. The children are called upon to change his or her character in order to contribute. This change of character is what saves the children's lives. 

Strickland's arts education has served thousands of kids in his lifetime. It is no wonder that over 90% of the kids who go to the Manchester Bidwell Center graduate from high school nor it is a surprise that some of them can go on to achieve greatness that was previously never possible. 

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