Bold. Brave. Brilliant.

Governor’s Arts Awards: In Praise of the Arts

Josh Borths – March 23, 2015

I grew up in a good school district. When I was in early elementary school, we had music, art, and gym classes that were on a three day rotation. We received grades for these disciplines and our work and participation in music was just as pertinent to parent-teacher conferences as our progress in English and math.

As I grew up, our district started to have money troubles. Bonds started to be voted down, and the first thing to be cut was our music and art instruction.

That had an impact on me.

Around the dinner table my parents would regularly discuss and debate the financial realities that were impacting our school district and how to combat the severe cuts and changes being made to our education. Immediately, I started picking up phrases like, “Music boosts math scores,” and, “Art helps comprehension.”

However, nothing seemed to change. After all, while music does help develop math skills, so does math class. As further cuts were made to band programs, theater departments, and orchestras, people continued to study and profess the cross-curricular benefits of the arts. Music, theater, dance, and art helped test scores in biology, foreign language, physics, and reading.

But, to no avail. To this day, the district I grew up in is a shadow of what it was.

Art for Art's Sake

But, what I don’t understand is this. Why didn’t we discuss what the arts offer education that math cannot? Aren’t the valuable skills we learn in music, theater, art and dance important on their own terms?

As I’ve moved into the world of arts education, I see this intrinsic value come alive every single day. I have seen students attend the opera and be literally moved to tears by the story unfolding before them. I have seen students who put together their own show grow in confidence as they express themselves in front of others. I’ve seen students be able to examine their own lives through the arts in a way that no other discipline allows them to do. I have seen students grow as people, grow as a community, and grow in understanding of the world around them thanks to the power of the arts.

Aren’t these experiences that we want all people to have? Isn’t this valuable to a community?

So many organizations, teachers, and groups are doing great work and sharing the value of the arts with the entire state of Arizona. That’s why programs like the Governor’s Arts Awards, presented this week by Arizona Citizens for the Arts in partnership with the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Office of the Governor, are so important. They celebrate the value of art in a community and in the lives of all Arizonans at a time when many see the arts as a luxury and not a vital part of our cities, states, and nation.

My elementary school is a shadow of what it once was. But, with the power of the arts, I know it can come back to life for a new generation of curious, imaginative, and empowered Arizonans.