Every year the Albion Area Arts Council awards a Fine Arts scholarship to a graduating senior from one of the communities we serve. Though Lori and I don’t choose the winner – a special scholarship committee does that – we really enjoy reading the applications, especially the students’ answers to why the arts are important in their lives.
The students applying for this scholarship have all been involved with the arts in school, and many have been involved at the community level as well. The arts are not just something they do for one class period a day – their answers reveal that the arts are an important part of their overall lives. One student pointed out that the arts are a big part of everyone’s life, saying that the arts are “everywhere around us” — so much so that we often “don’t even notice.”
He’s right – the arts are part and parcel to life. The arts, after all, convey our feelings and thus have some place in every life.
That the arts are intimately tied to our emotions was made clear by several applicants. One wrote that the arts “are a good outlet for people to express themselves” and help a person ‘open up and be themselves in the world.’ Another student remarked that art has allowed her to ‘escape the struggles in her life’ and helped her ‘figure out who she is and who she wants to be.’ Another student said that for him art “serves as a kind of therapy,” allowing him to express his emotions. Yet another said that “when I am on stage performing, I feel as if I’m…invincible.”
A number of students discussed the “skills and life lessons” they’ve learned from participating in the arts. One mentioned how speech has given her the confidence to speak in front of people and that music has taught her much about leadership and working together as a team. Another girl noted that while she has “never been the star athlete,” the arts have given her other activities to excel in and helped her to “become well rounded” in her character.
A student from St. Edward summed up the importance of the arts by writing, “To be successful in today’s world, it is vitally important to possess the ability to think, possess people skills, solve problems, demonstrate creativity and work as a member of a team.” She went on to say that the arts have helped her in all these areas and that the skills she’s gained from participating in the arts “will be the ones that will help guide me throughout the rest of my life.”
The arts are, as the student I mentioned above understands, so interwoven in our lives that it’s easy not to notice them. But as these applications make clear, the arts are an important part of many young people’s lives. The arts help them express their feelings, learn more about themselves, and provide them with valuable life skills. Being able to award one of these young people a scholarship in the arts is a wonderful privilege, but at the same time it’s a shame they can’t all win. Art is important to every one of them, and they all deserve to be supported and encouraged as they continue to learn and grow.