The arts improve our quality of life far beyond their economic impact
By Guest Columnist PATTY POULTER, dean of the College of Arts at Kennesaw State University
Were you among the hundreds of millions of viewers who watched the Oscars or the Grammys recently? Have you seen some of the top-rated movies or listened to the hottest chart-busters in music?
On the local scene, perhaps you enjoyed Broadway star Jason Alexander of TV’s Seinfeld fame when he performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in early March – or you attended Wicked at the fabulous Fox Theatre.
Maybe you’ve made plans to see the Atlanta Opera’s The Marriage of Figaro in April, or the Atlanta Ballet’s MAYhem in May.
There is no better time than the spring to experience the arts in Atlanta.
All of these wonderful, life-enhancing experiences begin with the arts. They impact our lives every single day and make a huge difference in the quality of our lives. The arts affect business as well, both in the workplace and as an economic stimulator, which is why support for the arts must become a top priority for business and government.
Fine arts majors make fantastic employees: They are innovative and engaged, and are known to be creative problem-solvers.
According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), employers place a high priority on innovation in the workplace (95 percent), and 93 percent responded, “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.”
In my own purely unscientific poll, I threw out this question on Facebook:
“How have the arts had impact upon your life, changed your life or the life of others you know?”
I received a couple of dozen responses, some of which are included in italics below..
“I was a theater major in college. This background gave me the foundation for a successful career: It taught me to speak confidently, listen to my instincts, [problem solve], build relationships, take initiative, and I noticed an association between creativity and good decision-making and judgment. Also, when I’m hiring people, if I see a fine arts background, I move them to the top of the interview list!”
– Ann O., senior director, Risk Management, New York City
Additionally, they valued problem-solving in diverse settings (91 percent); direct experiences with community problem-solving (86 percent); critical thinking and analytic reasoning (82 percent); complex problem-solving (81 percent); written and oral communication (80 percent); and civic knowledge, skills, and judgment essential for contributing to the community and to our democratic society. More than 90 percent want to hire those with “ethical judgment and integrity; intercultural skills; and the capacity for continued new learning.”
“[Studying trumpet] instilled in me to take pride and have self discipline in every job that I have had in the transportation industry. It also helped me communicate with my peers on a professional level.”
– Anne S., FedEx scheduler, Chicago
The arts teach every single one of these skills. Innovative solutions? Check. Critical thinking and analytic reasoning? Every single day in the studio, on stage, or at the design table, community problem solving is at the core.
“A few years ago, I accidentally discovered a strong relationship between creativity and decision-making. I was spending focused time on songwriting, and I even decided to try painting. I was lousy at painting, but I LOVED it. I then realized that the more time I spent on these activities, the better I was at making easier and more creative decisions at work. It felt as though a part of my brain had been expanded.”
– Ken, higher education executive, Atlanta
The arts change lives for the better. And when lives are bettered, society is improved. When society improves, it is reflected in the quality of life experienced by the members of that community.
How many ways must we articulate the importance of the arts to preservation and development of culture, of fostering creative and collaborative thinkers and innovative problem-solvers? How many studies must we cite that indicate that access to and engagement in the arts are integral to quality of life?
It shouldn’t be lost on any of us who have a passion for vital, healthy, and economically sustainable communities that the arts and culture are woven into the very fabric of such scenarios. We present evidence that employers want to hire people who are creative problem solvers, critical thinkers, and independent learners.
How often must we highlight the embarrassingly low state support for the arts in Georgia? How often must we revisit the staggering statistics from the Creative Industries Economic Impact report, highlighting the multi-billion dollar impact of the arts and arts-supporting businesses?
Investing in the arts is investing in human and civic potential. To those of you who support the arts, I extend my thanks. To those of you who believe the arts are best left to those who can afford them, I urge you to consider a world without music, art, design, drama, dance, film or television.
- The arts compel us.
- The arts connect us.
- The arts express that which is otherwise inexpressible. They force conversations that we didn’t know we needed – conversations about value, relationships, responsibility, beauty, human condition, social justice, spirituality, equality and disenfranchisement.
- The arts celebrate all that is good in us, and shine a light on that which needs to be repaired. The arts define and question, create community and connection.
- Simply put, the arts change lives.
I hope that your life is changed as you enjoy a spring season filled with the arts. Make time to visit a nearby college campus and enjoy a play, the ballet, an art exhibition or a concert. And, as you are entertained, please, consider what you may do individually, in your business, and in your community to support the arts.