Politicians are always discussing major budget cuts, which include funding to our public schools.
Usually when cuts are made, art and other enriching programs are first to be slashed. These budget cuts affect youth in a detrimental way by eliminating the opportunity for youth to cultivate their talents and abilities through artistic expression; in turn, nurturing the potential to excel in other areas, both inside and outside the classroom. In my opinion, it is essential for developing character and identity by encouraging youth to utilize their intuitive gifts to go beyond logic, and to view the world without limitations.
Growing up, I was a precocious and eccentric child, often misunderstood by my family. I was always looking for secret places to read, write and create. I remember sitting in my closet with a book or drawing paper. Perhaps it was the enclosed space that brought me solace, or the odd feeling of getting lost amid all the clothing and shoes.
Either way, it was a space that gave birth to imagination and creativity. I had created my own world filled with stories, colors and sound. It was a place I could call my own when I couldn’t go outside to explore the wonder of my environment.
Then at the age of nine, I entered a public school for gifted children, sandwiched between Manhattan and The Bronx. I was very fortunate to have been able to attend such a unique program, because I experienced the visual and performing arts, and other extracurricular activities that challenged me out of my closet, providing the space to express myself without the fear of judgment.
I may have been misunderstood by my family, but with my teachers and peers, I was brilliant. They were genuinely interested in my ideas, as well as the ways I used to express them. Consequently, those classes taught me how to engage socially with other children who were also going through the trials and tribulations of adolescence.
Furthermore, we witnessed each other’s transformation through many art forms. And little did we know, art was the catalyst for the positive changes within us. Our teachers instilled confidence and a healthy dose of pride in one’s performance.
I remember the music teacher fondly. He’d always compliment our singing, no-matter how off-key we were, and inspired us never stop. It wasn’t just the sound of his guitar as he strummed “Everyday People” that made an impact on me. It was the fact he never said we couldn’t sing. Rather, he’d tell us not to be shy to use our voice, and that continues to speak volumes.
We all know children spend most of their time in school, and parents trust that in their absence, they are stimulated not only through conventional learning, but via other activities that awaken their interest and elicit self-exploration. And that does not only apply to the arts, it is the case for all specialized educational programs that are in danger of extinction. Without such programs most children, especially those in under-served communities, may not experience what could be a vital element in their overall development.
Basic subjects learned in school are only a fragment of one’s identity and relation to others, not to mention the understanding of one’s experience. In school academics are taught. Yet wisdom is learned when one is able to explore the self through creative thinking and the artistic process, creating a dialogue between the self and the world.
There is no doubt that the arts enable us to bring to light what is trapped in the subconscious. It is a way for us to explain the human experience, which is limited by words alone. It also takes us back to our primitive selves when we communicated with each other through drawings on cave walls, through movement to emphasize a thought or an emotion, and through sounds (vocally or by playing a musical instrument).
Therefore, if our society chooses to eliminate art and all its manifestations in the public school system, then they are evidently seeking to impede on our innate language–a language that is universal and not confined by the mind. Artistic expression is a part of who we are; it is a process that uncovers many layers of our true selves.
I believe that eliminating programs that examine an existence outside the ‘norm’ is a statement to what the true intention is, which is to keep our young people enclosed in a ‘box’ that merely serves to shape them into tax-payers, and not human beings whose imagination can create a world full of possibilities.
To all the politicians that choose not to invest in our children, art programs, or education in general: you are hurting the future of today’s youth on a grand scale. Children have the right to a quality education that inspires them to discover their place in the world, and a system that understands that art plays an important role in that process. We must view art, not as a budget excess, but a way of life.
Virginia is a Certified Meditation Instructor, Energy Healer, Writer, and Artist based in New York City. She enjoys exploring the symbolism that reveals itself throughout our daily lives and inspires us to live authentically. She’s also an advocate for freedom of expression, creative or otherwise.You can follow her here.