Why is Art Important for the Future?

Recently, I have returned to the classroom part-time in order to pay the bills as I complete the Art is Power documentary. Working with an array of students from varying socioeconomic levels, constantly reminds me of the need for explicit instruction in creativity, self-awareness, social awareness, and empathy. It is disheartening to see so many young adults who believe that their individuality is worthless, and that in order to succeed, they have to conform to the standards of others and be mechanically obedient. This hit me particularly hard when a seventh-grade student stayed after class and asked me for advice on her future. After having her tell me about her interests, strengths, and desires, I realized that the only advice I could give was to make everything an art. I explained that all of the subjects she learns in school are important, but if she blindly follows the directives of her teachers and administrators, she will remain lost. I told her to transform every lesson into a tool for self-expression and an opportunity to answer the questions she has about the world and herself. I explained that teachers are there to provide tools, and she should use those tools as an artist does to rethink, reimagine, and create her reality. I know this can be a challenging thing to do, especially in some of the schools I work with that lack essential resources, but I am hopeful that she understood that I was essentially telling her that her ideas matter. We don’t know what the future will look like, but if we know ourselves, understand our world, and can critically examine what we are being told, we will succeed. These are the dispositions that the arts can cultivate.