Killing arts program only hurts our future

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It’s hard for me to think of a university without a solid arts program. It’s hard for me to fathom the reality that Elizabeth City State University axed its studio arts program.

It’s hard for me to understand why anyone would cut the arts at all.

The origin of the word university is Latin and is univertas which means “the whole.” So a university encompasses the entire spectrum of learning, including the arts.

Yet here, in Elizabeth City, this university determined that it would end its studio arts program. There didn’t even seem to be a reasonable assessment of the program, just slash it and move on seemed to be the thinking here.

The art professors solidly objected. They offered reasoned arguments. They cited among other things that the program produced art educators – men and women who go into our public schools and teach art.

Now it’s fair to say that a majority of our students both at the secondary and higher education levels will not become artists, or perhaps art teachers. However, art education does have lasting results on these students.

More specifically, the so-called at risk kids can find great benefits from arts education.

“At-risk students who have access to the arts in or out of school also tend to have better academic results, better workforce opportunities, and more civic engagement …,” states a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts study.

The research associated with the study shows that students from lower socioeconomic households stand to perform better academically if they have arts education. Those students who do not have access to arts education, according to the study, do not perform as well academically.

The study also presents evidence that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have higher career goals.

“High-arts, low-SES (socioeconomic status) college students had the highest rates of choosing a major that aligns with a professional career, such as accounting, education, nursing, or social sciences (30 percent), compared to low-arts, low-SES students (14 percent) and the overall SES sample (22 percent),” the study states.

This is not the only study to present these facts. There are numerous studies that clearly point to the reality that a solid footing in arts education presents a more well rounded individual who has more potential to succeed. And yet as a society we will cut arts funding first.

For some reason people see the arts as either a waste of time or perhaps something you do on the side if you have time. In a news story published on our website, www.dailyadvance.com, a reader commented that cutting the studio arts program was cutting the fat. What a shortsighted viewpoint.

Today we have seen the studio arts program cut from the university’s roster in an effort to save funding. It certainly makes one wonder what will be cut next?

In the meantime, it will be up to each one of us to discover the importance of art in our lives. Perhaps the late Kurt Vonnegut put it best.

““Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”