I was signing my kids up for an after-school arts program in Staten Island recently and wound up having a very interesting conversation with another parent. She told me she had let her son try just about every type of sport out there but nothing really sparked his interest. So she switched gears and they gave music classes a try. She said it was the best decision she ever made! Her son discovered a hidden talent for the guitar and now plays in his school band, and even sometimes entertains relatives at family parties with mini performances.
Her son is far from the only child who prefers to exert creative energy over physical. Arts programs for kids are a wonderful opportunity for children to display their individuality while bolstering creativity and inspiring confidence. And there are so many to choose from! Arts classes aren’t limited to “art” per se; these programs can include music, painting, drawing, dance, drama, photography, crafting and much more.
The benefits of arts programs for kids are seemingly endless, but I wanted to know more about the specific advantages of arts-inspired extracurricular activities since I had just registered my own child for one. So I spoke to some directors of various arts programs offering arts classes for kids in Staten Island, and they painted a colorful picture for me.
Why Are the Arts Important?
We know the arts are important to us as a cultural society, but some might argue art is almost a necessity for a person to thrive in all areas of life. “There is so much fulfillment that can be gained through the arts. Art can be a way to break communication and cultural barriers. I may not understand your language, yet I can make art with you, dance with you, and appreciate the same piece of art as you. Art can send a powerful message through imagery and music. We can gather a great deal of understanding and compassion for one another through exposure to the arts,” says Lynnanne Daly, Executive Director of Art Lab in Staten Island.
“I once read an article of a famous artist who said: ‘Science helps solve problems but art helps us cope with them”. I felt this covered a very important aspect of arts in our life. Arts in a society are a showcase of its development. If you take away imagination and creativity, life would be rather boring and colorless. All forms of art are ways we express ourselves and our ideas, even forming a part of our identities. Fostering arts and music at an early age is a fundamental tool in the intellectual and emotional development of our society,” adds Magi Kaplani, Owner of DEA Music & Art in Staten Island.
“The arts bring the community together. It allows communities to share thoughts, laugh, heal, and entertain while together,” says Ariel Marcus-Hollenbeck, Artistic Director of Illuminart Productions in Staten Island.
How and Arts Education for Kids Builds Confidence
Arts programs not only stimulate self-expression, but they boost a child’s self-esteem. In fact, heightened self-esteem is probably the most common – arguably the most important – benefit of an arts education for kids. “Being a part of the arts teaches kids to trust in themselves when up against a challenge. Having confidence in ourselves enables us to look at an obstacle through a new lens. This trust in oneself follows kids throughout their lives and into their next great endeavor,” explains Ariel Marcus-Hollenbeck.
“Many kids may have trouble expressing themselves in more traditional ways. They may be shy or nervous, but when they are participating in the arts, they open up. We’ve seen kids who were struggling begin to thrive once they have been introduced to art, music, dance, or theater,” says Glenn Weschler, Camp Co-Director of JCC Staten Island.
“There is no smile so great as the smile of a child who is showing us their latest artwork. The sense of accomplishment is evident. Art allows children to express themselves in a productive, creative, and safe environment. We teach the child that there are no mistakes in art,” says Lynnanne Daly.
The Many Benefits of an Arts Education for Kids
Okay, so art clearly builds confidence. But there are tons of other reasons and for trying out an arts program for kids in New York. “It’s been shown that people who are exposed to the arts as kids are more likely to be active, engaged adults. The arts also help our kids develop skills like persistence, creative thinking, teamwork, and problem solving,” Glen Weschler continues.
“In theater, students learn about many skills including collaboration, positive mental health, empathy, communication, literacy, problem solving, public speaking, perseverance, and creativity,” adds Rosemarie Callahan, President of Staten Island Children’s Theater Association.
“Social skills, critical thinking and inclusiveness develop strongly through the arts. The desire for a community-like feeling and togetherness in creating art grows naturally without adults pushing for it,” says Magi Kaplani.
Encouraging Kids to Try Art
But what happens if your child is insecure in their creative abilities or feels they simply won’t enjoy or benefit from an arts program? Should you still encourage them to try? The answer, according to our arts experts, is a resounding yes. Art is all about overcoming insecurities while having fun. “All children are creative! Families should expose their children to arts in nurturing environments and provide opportunities for artistic expression in both the home and after school activities. We encourage families to speak with their children about their interests and follow their child’s lead into what brings them joy,” says Rosemarie Callahan.
Here in Staten Island, art students are fortunate to have many talented and caring teachers in the world who want to see them flourish as a creative individual.
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