“Pyramids, cathedrals, and rockets exist not because of geometry, theories of structures, or thermodynamics, but because they were first a picture — literally a vision in the minds of those who built them. Society is where it is today because people had the perception; the images and the imagination; the creativity that the Arts provide, to make the world the place we live in today.”
~ Eugene Ferguson, Historian
Sufficient data exists today to overwhelmingly support the belief that study and participation in the fine arts is a key component in improving one’s learning throughout all academic areas. Those who have studied learning processes throughout the ages, beginning with Plato, have consistently emphasized the importance of the arts in the education process. Arts education refers to education in the disciplines of music, dance, theatre, and visual arts.
Students who have had participated in the arts as part of their education have demonstrable gains in their proficiency in math, reading, critical thinking, cognitive ability and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork. A 2005 report by the Rand Corporation about the visual arts argues that the intrinsic pleasures and stimulation of the art experience do more than sweeten an individual's life— according to the report, they "can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing," creating the foundation to forge social bonds and community cohesion.
It has also been shown that an arts education is effective in reducing student dropout, raising student attendance, developing better team players, fostering a love for learning, improving greater student dignity, enhancing student creativity, and producing a more prepared citizen for the workplace for tomorrow. The fine arts also provide learners with non-academic benefits such as promoting self-esteem, motivation, aesthetic awareness, cultural exposure, creativity, improved emotional expression, as well as social harmony and appreciation of diversity.
With this in mind, it is with great pleasure that we once again feature a sampling of artwork created over this past year by the students of our region’s three high schools. A great deal of credit is owed to art instructors Donna Cowles, Brad Gibson and Dawn Richards who have provided the fertile ground from which the works in the exhibition have taken root. This year’s exhibition Visual Diversions presents a sampling of works created over the past seven months. To be diverse is defined as being marked by distinct differences. In a world where media plays such a powerful role in the mass produced objects we buy, the clothes we wear and the food we consume, it is hard not to question whether there really is such a thing as being a diverse individual.
We celebrate artists for their unique ability to stray from the norm and offer us new sights and sounds that feed our curious souls. Often, it is our curiosity that compels us to either create or investigate new and different forms of artistic expression. Any form of art education is critical to not only teach specific skills, but to build confidence as we diverge from the comfortable routine in life. We gain confidence in the simple fact that there really are no answers when it comes to artistic expression and we delight in the multiple solutions that can be found with any artistic problem.
"Art does not solve problems, but makes us aware of their existence," sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz has said. Arts education, on the other hand, does solve problems. Years of research show that it's closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.
On behalf of School District #67, art teachers Donna Cowles, Brad Gibson and Dawn Richards take this opportunity to thank all of their students for the risks they take in their classes daily. They hope you the viewer enjoy the wide variety of concepts and media they expose their students to and invite you to look upon the work and celebrate the many diverse approaches every student takes when solving visual problems. They encourage student participants and gallery viewers alike to consider the possibilities in their own lives that feed creativity and offer new opportunities towards building confidence as unique and diverse individuals in this complex world.