WOW! I just read the most thought provoking article on Education Rethink. This is the first article that I've read on the site, therefore I can't vouch for the worth of any other post. However, I do think this one in particular is a worthy read for anyone, but especially for art teachers, artists, and art lovers.
What is the difference between graffiti and art?

We Need Art Parks addresses an issue that has weighed heavily on my mind since I became an art teacher in the fall of 2011. While I have always been an art lover, I never before understood the importance of the arts in our communities and schools. After teaching first grade for 6 years, then teaching elementary visual art, I became acutely aware of the impact the arts can have on a person, especially a young learner. The fact that most of our communities and schools have a lack of one of the fundamental aspects of human existence concerns me. WE NEED MORE ART!

John T. Spencer dips his toes into the "Art or Vandalism" controversy over graffiti in We Need Art Parks.  However, the "meat" of the article is the idea that our communities have a need for more art. Told through a conversation between children, Spencer asserts that, "We need art to be like sports".

That statement is well worth repeating:
 "We need art to be like sports." 

Our culture places an enormous amount of importance on sports. The fact that the 2012 Summer Olympics have just kicked off can only be a testament to that. We take our kids to little league ballgames at parks built for the sole purpose of sports activities. We buy season tickets to collegiate games of our favorite football teams. We buy the jerseys and car tags of our favorite Major League Baseball teams. We watch Basketball Wives. All things "Sports" are readily available to the masses! 

Now, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this. I love sports too. I will be sitting right beside you at Davis Wade Stadium this fall to see my beloved Bulldogs play football. And, I'm not saying that our culture doesn't place any value on the arts. It does. 

I'm just saying, "What if...". 

What if we could promote the arts on the same level that we promote sports activities? What if we had places for art competitions the way we have little league baseball fields? What if students had more access to the arts both in school and in the community?

Research has shown over and over that an education rich in the arts greatly increases a student's level of academic success. It increases test scores and graduation rates. It provides a positive outlet for students who are experiencing negative emotions. The arts add value to a community. They provide a common ground for reaching across social barriers, including race, economic status, and age. The arts make the world a more beautiful place. If you don't believe me, check out some of these wonderful resources: Mississippi Alliance for Arts Education, Mississippi Arts Commission, National Arts Education Association.

I would personally like to see more arts activities and festivals in our schools, more art-related activities in our communities. The arts bond human beings together emotionally. Like sports, the arts can bring groups of people together. The arts can unify us for the common good. We need more of that in this country during these trying times. When so many lines are drawn politically, economically, socially, etc., we definitely need more art! 

A Call to Action:

How can we accomplish this? How can we make art like sports? Here are a few ways that I know of: become a member of your local art museum (see below), contact local arts teachers for volunteer opportunities in the schools (just call, they want your help), donate arts materials to local organizations like the Girl Scouts and 4-H Clubs (again, just make the call), follow your local arts organizations on Facebook for updates on arts events in your area (see below), become a member of this blog for more ideas (check the right hand column and click "Join This Site"). 

I can guarantee that if you do any of these things your efforts will be welcomed and appreciated. Also, don't forget to comment below with your own ideas! Let's start a discussion and bring to life all of the possibilities that the arts can offer! 

By the way, while I am on the subject of supporting your local arts organizations, The Gumtree Museum of Art in Tupelo, MS is a wonderful community resource for visual arts. Please check out the site, follow on Facebook, and support the museum by becoming a member.

 Copyright 2012 Amanda Koonlaba-There's a Party in the Art Room (text)