I had a parent ask for my thoughts on how often her student should take art classes and if it was okay to take breaks and prioritize other classes. Schedules get so busy with conscientious parents trying to make sure all bases are covered. The question got me thinking back to my own educational experience.
I was a highly driven, straight-A student my whole life, from K-college. I was also involved in all kinds of extra-curriculars, from sports to student council to music and theater. I took AP classes and did all the college prep stuff. Times were different in the 80s, but I CANNOT remember a semester where I was not able to fit in an art class. Art classes were a vital time of creativity and decompression for this little high achiever. They exercised a different aspect of my brain than math, science, and English, and I am certain they helped to keep me balanced and mentally healthy.
Even though I didn't pursue it as a degree and never thought I'd teach it, my art experiences and skills have influenced me daily for my entire life and have greatly enhanced my quality of life. I approach problems creatively, which comes in handy in everything from parenting to business meetings to interpersonal relationships. I am the one who gets asked to paint banners, create business cards, make jewelry for fundraisers, and help decorate for friends' weddings. The fact that I can contribute artistically in multiple ways to people and organizations is a huge blessing to me. The fact that I have a deep appreciation of beauty and design is a salve in a troubled world.
I know this is all anecdotal. But I've read plenty of scientific studies that confirm my points. You can research those on your own. But keep this in mind, dear parents: depending on your child, art may be more than a "fun extra," it may be the class that keeps them mentally healthy and has a life-long Return on Investment.
Jill Pearson, owner & instructor at Riverwood Studio, Oronoco, Minnesota