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Voices for Any Given Child Indy: Challenging Times and Arts Education

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Brenda Johnston, Any Given Child Indy Creative Engagement Committee Member and Arts Administration Professor at Butler University

Our world faces many challenges today—more than any other time in history. Many of us grapple with these challenges. How can we address them?

What are the answers that will help us overcome them?

These challenges, from climate change to food security, homelessness to cross-cultural relations and everything in between, need new, unique, and yet-to-be-imagined answers.

How do we begin to discover and determine these answers?

My answers to that question are arts education and arts integrated education.

Many of us can picture arts education—learning to play an instrument, going to art class, singing in our school choir, being in the school play.

But what is arts integrated education?
According to The John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts, arts integration is an approach to teaching in which students construct and demonstrate understanding through an art form. Students engage in a creative process that connects an art form and another subject area and meets evolving objectives in both.

Picture students learning math through movement, helping them to embody concepts in ways that they learn not just by rote memory. (See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ws2y-cGoWqQ.) And students writing plays to bring their history lessons to life. And students using bookmaking to blend various subjects including art in ways that excite and engage students and make learning feel more personalized and fun.

Why arts education and arts integrated education?
Arts education, especially theatre, teaches empathy. We have a bullying problem in our country. If we begin teaching theatre to young children, we may develop more empathetic, understanding people who support one another instead of tearing each other down.

Arts education in all forms helps children and people of all ages manage and share their emotions in constructive ways. The arts teach students about different cultures in a myriad of ways that help them to relate to and communicate with people from diverse backgrounds; supporting the development of a more understanding, accepting, and cohesive society.

Arts education and arts integrated education help people discover and understand complex concepts and issues in new ways that help us approach challenges from multiple perspectives, thus helping us to develop comprehensive solutions to the most difficult problems. Arts education and arts integrated education are what foster creative, innovative thinking, and problem-solving skills; the skills that business people, researchers, and politicians need to advance their work not just today and tomorrow but for years to come. This type of education is what we need to support the discoveries that will make our tomorrows better than today.

About the Author
Brenda Johnston received her BA in Arts Management from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. She worked for various theatre companies in Milwaukee, was Founding Director of South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, and Executive Director of Schauer Arts Center. She received a dual Master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University and Universita di Bologna. She teaches Arts Administration at Butler University.


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Voices for Any Given Child Indy is an initiative that gives leaders in the Indianapolis community the opportunity to focus on issues in arts education and in the community, as well as their personal investment in the success of Any Given Child Indy. Be on the look out for new posts from community leaders on anygivenchildindy.org.

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