This week marks National Arts in Education Week, a time for us to highlight the transformative power of the arts in education. Arts education for all students is fundamental to a well-rounded education. The arts provide dimension and perspective, and they help students develop the critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills they will need to succeed in school, work and life. Students who have high-quality arts learning opportunities may be among tomorrow’s great artists, and they also may be among tomorrow’s health care professionals, engineers and civic leaders. No matter the path, arts education provides a way to creative careers of the future.
EdVestors and Boston Public Schools (BPS) began laying the groundwork for this future more than a decade ago with the creation of BPS Arts Expansion, an initiative that has brought arts learning opportunities to 17,000 additional students annually across the entire school district, ensuring all students receive foundational arts learning opportunities. Now, it’s time to build upon this base and increase opportunities to help students put their arts education into action.
According to the 2016 World Economic Forum report, “The Future of Jobs,” a majority of employers say creativity is one of the most valued qualities they seek in their employees, along with critical-thinking skills and the ability to solve complex problems. In Boston, our creative economy sector alone is projected to grow by 7 percent over the next decade, adding around 1,800 jobs. Going forward, arts education will be vital to building the workforce needed to power the 21st century creative economy, not only here but across the globe. The world will continue to need educators to cultivate creativity in all of our young people and help open avenues to arts opportunities for them — especially those with traditionally the least access — so they may have robust and fulfilling careers.
Increasingly, we’ve seen young people asking for more opportunities to engage in quality work-based learning experiences while they’re in high school via increased learning opportunities in career and technical education. Through design and visual communication, media, graphic design, fashion design, and film & radio broadcasting, our students are developing professional networks and connections to the job market that they might not otherwise have had. Both for-profit and nonprofit organizations are partnering with teachers and supporting students as they build and master artistic and creative skills.
This summer, the Bloomberg Arts Internship program expanded to Boston. In July and August, 25 high school students received a paid eight-week internship at one of 15 arts and cultural institutions that eagerly opened their doors, helping the interns develop an appreciation of the roles that arts and culture play in our city. Interns were also able to build skills such as oral and written communication as well as envision career pathways in creative industries that may be available to their future selves.
Additionally, the Bloomberg Arts Internship and other initiatives like it help address opportunity gaps for students and equity gaps in the local arts and culture workforce. By building pathways of opportunity for our diverse young people, these internships also serve an industry hungry for employees who reflect the city’s diversity.
This kind of authentic on-the-job learning, whether through internships or other opportunities, is a space that the arts naturally occupy. It’s also a place where we can cultivate an interest in learning and mastering new skills, not only to inspire current high school students but also to begin engaging our middle school students in identifying and exploring pathways in creative industries that will continue to evolve and be available in their futures.
An education rich in arts learning opportunities will result in skilled, creative and innovative adults. Extending such opportunities to the workplace will build leaders ready to power the 21st century creative economy.
This story about National Arts in Education Week was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for our newsletter.
Myran Parker-Brass is the former executive director for the arts in Boston Public Schools.