One of the biggest factors in my return to creating art is that my son was auditioning last year for the Marin School of the Arts. He was auditioning for the Rock/Contemporary Music Program for guitar and electric bass and the Digital Arts program. He was accepted and I realized that in encouraging him to go to a school of the arts, we were prioritizing the arts in a big way. I think it made me think of the wisdom or lack of wisdom to not make the arts more of a priority. I had been a photographer and sold some of my photos, but I used to be good at drawing and painting. So last year and this year, I have been trying to make space for my art because we are an arts family.
Last year, I went to a memorial of my Drama Teacher in High School, Lee Clements. I saw the dancing teacher and heard stories about how performing arts still plays a role in people's lives in their 50s and 60s. My friends who were in Choraliers with me and friends that were in Jazz band still enrich their lives by performing or consuming the arts. Looking back at my public school, I realized that we had a rigorous arts program back in 1981-84.
It made me start thinking how I would reshape education so every child in this country would not only have the best academic classes, but would have access to arts education and industrial arts education so they would have skills beyond the basics.
Every child in America deserves to find out what they are good at and the ability to do that thing while they are in school. Not every child will excel in academics, but they may be good with their hands, be a gifted musician, be a talented actor, or great at dance.
What I propose is in addition to math, science, english, foreign language, history, and civics, we also introduce classes in the arts and industrial arts.
The arts department at every school in the nation would offer theater arts, orchestra, jazz band and combo, vocal music, film, digital arts, drawing, painting, sculpture, creative writing, and dance. What I would like to see is what Marin School of the Arts has. This video shows how the arts really makes a difference in everyone's life. The arts provide practice in being empathetic and standing in someone else's shoes. The arts have been shown to reduce stress, depression, and when you are in the zone, it takes your mind off pain. Art can be therapy sessions throughout your life.
Then I would have an industrial arts department where we would offer instruction in the trades like electrical, plumbing, HVAC, mechanics, carpentry, construction, culinary arts, drafting, welding, fashion design, textiles, interior design, lab technician, and emergency medicine. My husband's grandfather went to a private polytechnic school in San Francisco that taught academics, but also electrical, mechanics, drafting, fashion design, textiles, and other trades. I think we need to revisit that.
Both the arts and industrial arts promote resilience.
Not everyone is going to be academic, so you need to let kids understand that while they must be exposed to academics, there are other things they can do with their lives. Academics, the Arts, and Industrial Arts are not mutually exclusive to each other. The arts, especially music helps with performance in Math. Exposure to the trades means you may be able to do your own wiring or you know of a former classmate you can call for help.
I have seen first hand how arts education keeps kids, who wouldn't normally be engaged in school, engaged in school. It gives them a reason to wake up and show up for school. It builds their self confidence and well being to find what they are good at and be with kids who have found what they are good at.
Not everyone who has arts education or industrial arts education will end up doing any of it professionally, but they will learn those skill and be able to use them if they need them. If they are not performers or tradesmen, they will be better consumers or teachers of the arts and trades generating demand for the arts and trades.
The arts and industrial arts are also safe from robotics. So many jobs we have today are on track to be automated or sent oversees. The arts and industrial arts will be resistant to that trend. If we make a commitment to the arts we will have new career paths for people who are not necessarily academically inclined.
There is money in the arts. Watch the credits of the popular show, Game of Thrones and you will see actors, musicians, fine artists, digital artists, construction, model makers, set design, craftspersons, costumers, electricians, makeup artists, camera operators, and food services. Given the growth of all kinds of entertainment platforms, arts and industrial arts can offer practical skills. Every school should support kids who are good working with their hands, or who can create art.
D.K. Castellucci is an artist living in Marin County who works in acrylic, oil paint, oil and soft pastels, charcoal, gouache, watercolors, graphite and