The correlation between the arts and development in youth is undeniable and with the introduction of a new curriculum in 2015, there has been an increased focus on individualized, inquiry-based learning. More and more, educators are utilizing art to reach students with different learning strengths and to create a dialogue amongst students. "The redesigned curricula are described as concept-based and competency-driven. They place more emphasis on the deeper understanding of concepts and the application of processes than on the memorization of isolated facts and information." (BC's Redesigned Curriculum - An Orientation Guide)
At BC Culture Days, we've seen the positive impact of youth-focused arts education firsthand. We're lucky to have so many organizations involved who work hard to make sure children and youth have access to arts-based extracurriculars and are able to reap the benefits of art workshops. Below are just a couple testimonies from members of our Culture Days community on the importance of increased youth participation in the arts.
The Port Moody Arts Centre is an arts and culture hotspot that hosts all kinds of events and art programs year-round. Art 4 Life is a 2D and 3D art exhibition for children under the age of 13 that exposes young participants early on to gallery art and encourages families to spend time together in an arts environment. We spoke to Janice Cotter of Port Moody Arts Centre to learn more about the centre's 2017 Culture Days activity and the importance of early exposure to art.
Art 4 Life featured participatory events geared towards children ages 12 and under. Why is it important to you to feature activities aimed towards that age group?
Janice: The Port Moody Arts Centre is always tingling with the energy of the young people who take classes in visual arts, music, theatre and even Lego. It just seemed like a logical step for us to have one exhibition a year completely focused on them.
One of my favourite things about Art 4 Life is that it gives parents a chance to introduce their children to art exhibitions in a gallery setting that’s welcoming, engaging and free. When both the parents and the child have a positive first experience in an arts environment, it makes it more likely that they will continue exploring arts programs, venues and activities. I know Art 4 Life is a success when kids get inspired by the art and say things like “How did the artist make that?”, “Why did they make that?" or “I want to learn to make that."
What kind of skills and lessons can be gained from early exposure to art?
Janice: There are so many benefits for children who are exposed to art from an early age. Looking at art, learning to appreciate it, and participating in arts activities helps to encourage things like creative problem solving and development of motor skills. It’s also great for boosting self-esteem and providing a sense of accomplishment.
Another important factor in today’s world is that art helps to create cultural awareness while increasing empathy and tolerance. It gives children a window into how the artist sees the world through their culture or condition.
The benefits of an arts education affect so many aspects of our existence and we hope learning about art will be a lifelong journey.
Keyanna Burgher was one of five BC Culture Days ambassadors in 2016 and has extensive experience working with youth in Vernon, writing plays directed towards teens and teaching art classes to children and youth. When asked about youth involvement in the arts, here's what she had to say:
How important are youth-focused programs for communities and what kind of benefits do the programs hold?
Keyanna: It sounds cheesy to say, but youth are our future. It’s only logical to give them as many opportunities as possible to explore and grow and make mistakes and get messy and learn. Especially in the arts. Other than those of us involved directly in the arts, I think it’s one of those things that become “less important” when we get older. It’s cut more and more from the school systems. It’s cut from government funding. But that’s such a backwards way of thinking. We live for art. There’s art in the way we think, the way we love, the way we look at things. It’s important for youth to know that and to develop an artistic way of looking at the world. There is no end to the benefits artistic programs hold for our youth, from small communities to a global scale, for our mental health, our education and our economy.
The Vernon Arts Centre held workshops for youth at risk of being involved in criminal activity, and it was beautiful to see them focus their energy into art, and get really passionate about creating something positive. And the best part was that they were proud of themselves. They found they were good at something. It was incredible and important. I think I’m getting a bit preachy here, but you know what I mean. Start ‘em young. Hey kids! Get to your local arts centre and take some classes! Take part in Culture Days! Volunteer! Get involved!
Are you an arts organization or arts educator who has seen the impact of youth arts first-hand? Send us your stories at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the hashtag #Culture365.
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