Art In Action
The Sandy Springs Arts Foundation’s Art in Action program (formerly known as Art in Place) has two components: a student arts contest and student-to-student arts mentoring. Since inception, these elements have reached over 2,700 students combined at public schools in Sandy Springs, and we expect the numbers to be ever growing.
This is a very special event. Sandy Springs students submit videos to showcase how they feel art uplifts and inspires especially in difficult times. The idea was sparked during the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity for “homebound” students to have a creative outlet and to “celebrate the arts”. Students describe why the arts are impactful to them, and each student then sings, plays an instrument, recites a poem, etc. Videos are rated by arts staff at each school. Thousands of dollars are donated to each school to acquire much needed art tangibles, such as instruments, audiovisual equipment and consumables.
Student-to-Student Arts Mentoring
The second component of “Art in Action” is student-to-student arts mentoring. We work with middle- and high school music students in a structured environment. The older high school students mentor their younger counterparts. As one student mentor explained, “It was really a gift to work with the younger students and for them to become better music students. I feel the program made the middle-school students more inclined to play music in their future.”
The Need of Arts in Education: Making the Case
As far back as the time of the ancient Greeks, philosophers like Plato recognized the value of studying the arts. Theatre, music, dance and the visual arts were seen as integral to society. They continue to be today.
Why are the ARTS so needed in education?
Research shows that the arts promote positive child development in the academic, social and emotional realms, especially for low-socioeconomic status (SES) students. Although many educators and parents already know about some of the more tangible benefits of art education, the positive effects of creative expression on emotional and mental health are often underestimated. Arts activities in schools and at home can help foster cognitive development as well as provide outlets for children to express how they feel and develop their self identities. There are many different ways to introduce the arts to students, and each concentration has its own benefits on kids’ emotional development and mental health:
Writing is a key part of any school’s curriculum, but the creative and emotional aspects of it are sometimes downplayed. Expressing oneself on paper not only improves language development and understanding, but also eases the anxieties a student may face in his or her personal life. Being able to write freely and expressively is crucial in a kid’s ability to cope with his or her emotions and experiences, especially those during COVID-19.
Drawing and painting have been found to improve memory, coordination, and problem-solving skills in students, but can also provide an emotional outlet and stress relief. Making art can help some people better understand their mental health without getting overwhelmed by the feelings of vulnerability that often come with acknowledging inner struggles.
Music education has been known to improve coordination and auditory skills, but can also be influential in developing a student’s self-confidence, sense of achievement, imagination, and engagement. Students may find that attaching music to emotions can help them express themselves in a way that words may not allow.
The list goes on, but perhaps the greatest benefit of the arts is seen among populations that come from economically disadvantaged homes. The following shows the arts positive effect on workforce development:
Low SES students who have experienced the arts are three times as likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than their low SES peers. Additionally, 50% of low SES students with arts-rich K-12 experiences expect to work in a professional career (law, medicine) compared to just 21% of low SES students who have not had the benefit of access to the arts.
Since 2020, the program has grown to include all middle and high schools in Sandy Springs. The program has reached over 1,300 students so far, and the participation numbers are ever growing. Thanks to our foundation, an anonymous donor, the Livingston Foundation, and Northside Hospital, the program will continue through 2022 and with the addition of other sponsors, “Art in Action” will continue to be a permanent and signature program of the Sandy Springs Arts Foundation.