Recently we returned to HVA High and saw the power of arts education in action. Since the school’s arts program began seven years ago, an increasing number of classes have been offered, and the effect is astounding. An increasing number of students are interested in pursuing arts-related majors in college. Given the opportunity to succeed, the students are thriving, drawing upon their more abstract instincts, as teachers instill a level of professionalism most associate with more rigid careers. Students not only learn the skills needed to paint and draw, but also learn the value of the tools they are given and how to respect them.
The value of the program was made all the more clear when we sat in on classes. At the beginning of an Advanced Visual Arts, the words “Survive or Thrive” were projected onto a whiteboard, the motto for the art class. As students gathered around one of the room’s many art tables, each shared what they were working on – what was going well and what wasn’t – eventually setting a goal for the day. The students then split up to work on their various projects, some sculpting, others painting, as the room, decorated with a living collection of past projects, filled with new thoughts and ideas.
Not only does the arts program offer an outlet for expression and teach students how to articulate their ideas in a communicable medium, but it also exposes them to the process of mastering a skill. Across the hall from the art class, the music teacher sat in front of two students practicing their singing. Steadily tapping their toes to the rhythm, their instructor guided them through a rendition of “The Impossible Dream,” a song from the Broadway musical La Mancha. Auditions for Rent, which the school will be putting on this spring, take place next week. On a lower floor, students danced to a wide variety of music. As their bodies moved in unison, they learned not just the accompanying steps for each song, but the self-control and focus needed to succeed. Arts education gives students the space and time required to master fundamental skills while practicing a discipline and creativity that they can employ in any area they choose to pursue.
We are proud to sponsor the arts program at Harlem Village Academies High and invest in the next generation of creatives.