January ’17| VOL. 1, #3
10 Reasons to Engage the Arts
USA| Jacqueline Cofield
Can the arts really make that big of an impact on your life? There are a multitude of reasons to engage the arts or to take up a creative hobby. These are just some of the ways that the arts can enrich your life:
- Increase Your Intelligence
A study has found that increasing arts education in schools by even just an hour a week resulted in children gaining more interpersonal skills and gaining a deeper understanding of what they had been studying in their other subjects (e.g. putting on a play based upon what they had been studying in history class). Learning about the arts can improve emotional intelligence, visual intelligence, and social intelligence in both adults and children.
Visual intelligence naturally increases our ability to remember specific details of what we have seen, visualize things, and helps us to notice and connect with more of our surroundings than we would otherwise. Trips to museums have been used to help New York City police officers make better, non-biased reports.
- Increased Creativity
Experiences in the arts can help us find new ways to express ourselves in both our professional and personal lives. Going on an ‘art date’ to a new place such as a museum or heritage site is an often recommended way for creative practitioners to gain new inspiration. For instance, looking around an art gallery could provide inspiration for presentations, short stories or songs.
- Personal Growth and Healing
Many people who are in long term medical care or unable to work use the arts as a means to recover both physically and mentally. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, for example, uses art and music therapy to aid children in working through their traumatic experiences.
The act of producing something that would otherwise not exist is a positive feeling. This is why artistic activities are often used in prisons, as detailed by this article in Psychology Today, or by people with mental health issues. It helps people to deal with their negative emotions and inspires more positive emotions and a feeling of accomplishment.
Engaging in creative activities is also good stress relief and can increase our self-awareness. Anything which takes our minds off of our problems for a little while can aid us in putting those problems into perspective and perhaps even finding solutions to dealing with them.
- Social Interaction
As well as strengthening existing relationships and communication skills, the new people you can meet through a shared interest in the arts can have a great positive affect on your personal and professional life. People have met their best friends and even their spouses at arts events. Relationships can be improved further through a new shared interest or hobby.
Even so, many overlook the social aspects of the arts, especially young professionals trying to get their foot onto the job ladder. Cultural events provide a rare opportunity for young people to network informally with corporate CEO’s whom they would otherwise not be able to meet with.
For example, say the boss of a company you want to work for enjoys jazz music. If you enjoy jazz yourself then you could interact with them at a jazz festival or music venue. The generation gap often makes it difficult for young people to connect with the older people who are in control of most industries. Similar to how bonds are quickly established through sports affinities, the same is possible in the arts. A shared cultural interest can form an instant connection and make you more memorable to compared to other job candidates.
The arts give us the opportunity to see more of the world, both literally and figuratively. Visiting foreign cities in order to view cultural sites, or to attend arts events is a great reason to travel. Many people may not be in a position to afford global travel, so they rely on the arts to give them a glimpse of the world and provide their cultural education. Fiction allows us to travel to both real and made up places. An art exhibit allows us to see for ourselves the culture of a place we might otherwise experience.
- Develop Your Aesthetic
Interests gained through the arts can influence our aesthetic as much as anything else. Fashion designers often take inspiration from artists, such as Yves Saint Laurent’s legendary Mondrian dress, based upon the paintings of the modern artist. The steampunk subculture, which combines Victorian fashion with sci-fi stories, grew out of a fascination with Victorian fiction and art.
You can try this yourself in small ways. If you like African art aesthetics, you could search stores for clothing which uses African designs like designer Adama Paris of Senegal. If you enjoy ballet, you could decorate your walls with some Edgar Degas prints.
- Learn History
The arts reveal to us many interesting historical human stories and also challenge the history we thought we already knew. The period drama The Birth of a Nation sought to correct and redefine the history behind the 1915 film of the same name which has long been criticized for its inaccuracies and depicting the Ku Klux Klan as heroes.
- Improved Performance
An arts education gives children an increased chance to discover their passion, gives them an outlet to express themselves, or simply takes their minds off of the stresses of their school work.
The same is true for adults. You will be surprised how much arts and creative hobbies can improve your work performance. Creative writing can help you to write better reports. Performing arts can teach you how to articulate in your presentations and speeches or even just give you the confidence you need to pass a job interview. Artistic hobbies or interests could even give you something new to add to your resume, which could make the difference in landing your dream job.
Dance, performing arts, and other forms of physical arts are an ideal way to keep fit. Dance classes are a popular way of getting exercise as they typically don’t require expensive equipment or a gym membership. They are also enjoyable and can increase your social circle. A dance style from another culture can even contribute to learning more about that culture.
Performing arts can help you become more intuitive and in-touch with your body. You could even try a less conventional art form to keep fit – acrobatics, juggling, puppetry, improv theatre, stand-up comedy, sometimes even playing music are all art forms which require you to get on your feet and get moving and are open for practically anyone to try out.
- Fulfilling a Dream
Sometimes we get the feeling that if we haven’t mastered something by the time we finish college then we never will. Even Van Gogh didn’t start painting until he was 27 years old and he produced nearly 900 works in ten years before his death.While taking up a hobby won’t automatically turn you into Van Gogh and there is no guarantee that you will succeed at every piece of art you attempt, you can at least say ‘I’ve tried that’.
Mastery is a secondary concern if you have truly enjoyed creating something. If you otherwise thought that you weren’t a creative or artistic person, you could surprise yourself by breaking your own expectations, or the expectations of those around you.
There are many more reasons besides these to engage with the arts and much you can gain and discover from doing so. You don’t need to do anything big or spend a lot of money to begin engaging with the arts. Simply visit a local gallery (it’s free) or museum, listen to a new CD from the music library, or pick up a pen and start writing. Whatever form of art you are interested in, engagement at any level can lead to more benefits than you can imagine.
Jacqueline Cofield, M.Ed. is an advocate for global arts education and founder of J Rêve International.