Reflections Inspired by “We’re All Art Teachers”

On a personal level, I founded The Audacity Performing Arts Project knowing there are massive benefits to having young people participate in performing arts education.

audacityMay2015Growing up in less than healthy family, theatre provided one of the few positive experiences my father I shared. During a very troubled time of my young adulthood, theater provided an anchor.

Today, I have been working in youth theatre for the past 9 years; I have see how the experience changes children — allows them to change — in very positive ways.

When asking for money or trying to explain why performing arts education and participation is important, I have found it nearly impossible to avoid citing statistics that seem to reduce children are objects. We are talking here about human beings. Not one child is the same as the next. Not one child will follow the same path as others. And, yet,we know that no one can survive without imagination and hope.

The fact may be that we will never be able to truly quantify the impact of performing arts education and participation.

How do you talk about or, in my case as the president of a company, sell the benefits of performing arts education without offering some sort of quantifiable outcome?

The question that causes a great deal of anxiety is “How do I convince people to support a project where the ‘real’ benefits to the people we serve (children) may be impossible to quantify?”

Last month there was a drive by shooting across the street from one of the schools where Audacity serves.The five young men arrested were 17, 17, 16, 16 and 14. It is clear that hope to these young men was participating in activities that lead to a 20 year old being killed and a 3 month old growing up without a father.

audacityMay2015-2

To me, there is a direct and personal connection to these teens facing 25 years to life in prison and the 6, 7 and, 8 year olds we work with across the street. There is a direct connection between the smiles and hugs and the complete failure of our society to take care of those teens. After all, 7-10 years ago, they were smiles and hugs in someone’s first grade class.

When you invest in children, in their creativity, in their imagination, in those aspects of their personhood that are untouched by other disciplines, you help unleash their natural ability to discover hope. And, it is hope that guides a person to invest in a future where violence and prison are unnecessary.

Many years ago, the young men who participated in the recent shooting, were left to find hope for a better life/existence where ever they could. Their imaginations were not nurtured, their natural creativity was not guided to something bright and hopeful.

For me, the hugs of these young people suggest we are offering something more than theater games and silly acting projects. We are unleashing hope in a neighborhood that could use it. It is possible we are making a difference in the real lives of children.

How the hell do you quantify that in a number?

It is a balancing act in being able to offer donors a concrete reason to support a program like Audacity while making sure not to lose site of the “big why” (raison d’etre) and, focus on the basic humanity of a child.

I strongly desire to improve at this, the article below has reminded me to try harder because the children for whom we sit in trust as members of The Audacity Performing Arts Project are worth the effort.

Louis Stone-Collonge
Founder and President
The Audacity Performing Arts Project, Inc.

We’re All Art Teachers:  http://educationnext.org/art-teachers/

The rhetoric of “college and career ready,” for good or ill, has taken over our educational moment. Education is defined as preparation, its purpose tied to an abstract future time. This implies (if taken most sinisterly) that if a child doesn’t end up in college or something we consider a career right away, the whole endeavor was pointless. We don’t talk much about “education for education’s sake” anymore. In an increasingly competitive world, this may be the way to go. This mind-set, however, leaves little room for activities that are educationally, but not measurably, valuable.

We’re all arts teachers in the sense that we all help children to find their voices and discover who they are.

Education is a gift we give to our children. We can wrap it up as math, science, reading, or art, but the important thing isn’t what we give them. It’s what they do with it. Arts education enables children to develop into who they really are; it’s the key that opens kids’ minds and makes the rest of the stuff possible.