Impossible to understate importance of arts in education |

Impossible to understate importance of arts in education

“Every day, through engagement in the arts, our children learn to open their imagination, to dream just a little bigger and to strive every day to reach those dreams …” — Michelle Obama

As a young student, I too learned to imagine. As a young student, there was never a week, a semester, a year that did not include the arts as a part of my education. I count myself as fortunate to have been educated in an era when the arts were an integral part of the educational system. My education helped to formulate who I am today by providing the basis of my knowledge, my self-reliance and my life experience.

For our young students today, that system of education does not exist. That is unfortunate for them and for us. Studies have shown that for young students, exposure to the arts correlates to a child’s brain development in the areas of symbolic communication, problem solving, self-confidence, memory and academic success. Furthermore, the arts play a central role in the development of a child’s language, cognitive and motor skills.

For high school students enrolled in creative art classes, studies have shown an increased ability to solve problems, an increased acceptance of responsibility, the building of self-confidence, continued perseverance, and critical thinking.

It is a documented fact that high school students enrolled in art programs perform better academically in the areas of math, science and language arts than those students who are not enrolled in the arts. A report by the college board detailed the increased scores in the math and verbal sections of the SAT by students who have taken just one year of creative arts.

Creativity is the basis of many skill sets. Students of the arts are able to think for themselves, make decisions, discuss ideas and concepts and interpret the visual and technical components of multiple forms. It is no wonder that creativity and innovation are highly valued by employers.

To restate the obvious, a strong arts education provides the skills that children and young adults need to be successful. Students who study the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. Arts education has a measurable impact on at-risk youth by deterring delinquent behavior and reducing truancy.

With measurable cuts to the arts in our own school districts, how do we begin to provide the necessary tools that will provide for and sustain the arts for our current and future generations? In my conversations with both the districts’ superintendents and art faculty, they feel there is a real need for basic support with the understanding that the arts are at risk in Nevada County.

To support the existing art classes, many students and parents have started fundraising by hosting bake sales, offering performances and promoting the sale of student artwork. These attempts at funding the arts are great ideas, and I applaud the efforts; but they are clearly not enough to sustain the arts.

NCArts is considering many activities and strategies to bolster the arts in the schools, and working with our members and partners, we will lead the community to re-focus its resources toward this critical and fundamentally important part of our children’s education.

It is one of my goals as the executive director of Nevada County Arts to direct this movement to raise funds for the arts so that we can support artist-in-residence programs; touring artists; workshops; and a re-granting program, whereby schools can apply for special funding to meet their specific needs.

If you feel strongly about the arts and want to support our efforts, then you need to become a partner and join the team. You can help right now by making a tax-deductible contribution to

Larry Ortiz is the executive director of Nevada County Arts. Contact him at

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