Every year, we hear stories and read news reports about schools having to eliminate their arts programs for budgetary reasons.
Districts lose their orchestras and bands. Art classes and music classes are limited to part-time teaching staffs or done away with completely. Teachers lose their jobs, and students are forced through the school day without any cultural education. Cultural curriculum that used to be standard has become more of a privilege for students in districts that can afford to maintain the programs; a fact that means the programs are often being cut from the schools that need them most.
It's a recognized problem with identifiable consequences. President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities conducted an analysis titled Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools, which is the first federal analysis of arts education data in more than a decade, and was 18 months in the making. It not only highlights the importance of arts education, but says arts education helps students in all other studies, and discusses ways to incorporate the arts into core subjects.
There are whole lists of studies correlating the arts with overall better academics. Quite simply, the importance of the arts is unquestionable. And having a well-rounded balance is a great foundation for life.
Despite the continued disappearance of arts in educational settings, we have seen a resurgence of their impact in popular culture over the past decade. Television shows about dance and performance have become huge. Scripted comedies like Glee (2009) and the High School Musical (2006) franchise were massive successes. Pitch Perfect (2012), Chicago (2002), Moulin Rouge! (2001), Mamma Mia (2008), Sweeney Todd (2007) - all these films generated huge fan bases and explored the power of the arts. And Disney’s newest resurrection of musical films, from animated features such as Tangled (2010) and Frozen (2013), to live-action films like Teen Beach Movie (2013) and Camp Rock (2008), coupled with arts-oriented teen programs like Austin & Ally (2011), Hannah Montana (2006), and Liv & Maddie (2013), and film versions of renowned shows like Into the Woods (2014), are extremely useful at not only reaching out to those who need artistic influence in their lives, but to showcase the potential of the arts. It lets people see what's out there, and what's possible. Further, it has all helped make the arts “cool” again. Fifteen years ago, if a school had a glee club, involvement wasn’t always the most popular societal choice. Now, that’s not the case.
For many, popular culture is the most accessible place for them to experience the arts. It’s crucial that this type of material keep being made in a way that appeals to audiences and not only entertains, but inspires and educates.