CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Student artists and musicians from across the state were featured Friday at the West Virginia Department of Education’s fourth annual Arts Alive event celebrating the fine arts achievement of public schoolchildren at the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences.
Arts Alive: The Best of West Virginia showcased artwork of students statewide. The signature event, which was free to attend, featured the visual arts as well as instrumental and vocal music, dance and theater.
“The arts are vital to the success of the 21st century student,” said state Superintendent Steve Paine. “Arts programs encourage students to think creatively and adopt fresh approaches. Classes such as music, visual art, theatre and dance challenge our perceptions and help develop ways of thinking that are visual rather than verbal. They foster creative thinking and help bridge language and other barriers among diverse cultures in a 21st century global society.”
Artwork displayed at the event was chosen by the West Virginia Art Education Association, while music performers were selected through regional solo and ensemble festivals. Other groups were included by invitation or through a variety of other existing contests and adjudications across the state.
West Virginia launched the Arts Alive event at a time when many public schools across the country are struggling to keep their art and music programs going. The arts often are the first subjects threatened or even cut in hard economic times, even though the arts are considered a core academic subject by the U.S. Department of Education.
In West Virginia, music and visual art are required core subjects in the K-8 curriculum. In grades 9 through 12, dance, music, theater and visual art must be offered courses, and no student can graduate without an arts credit.
“Schools that cut back on the arts in the regular curriculum to focus on improving test scores in other subjects are making a major mistake and truly leaving our children behind,” Paine said. "A child's education is not complete unless it includes the arts.”
Research shows the arts not only impacts how young people learn to think, but also how they feel and behave. Arts-rich education experiences engage students and enhance learning in other subjects.
An analysis of U.S. Department of Education data on 25,000 middle and high school students found that students who were highly involved in the arts performed better on a variety of academic measures than other students. They earned better grades, did better on exams, dropped out of school less, performed more community service and watched less television.
“Well-taught arts courses are where creativity, flexibility, innovation, understanding and empathy are consistently required -- true 21st century learning skills that are transferable to many other disciplines,” Paine said.
West Virginia’s public schools have produced such successful artists as Don Knotts, David Selby, Kathy Mattea, Brad Paisley and Jennifer Garner, among others.
For more information on Arts Alive, contact Julia Lee, fine arts coordinator for the state Department of Education, at (304) 558-5325 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Office of Communications at (304) 558-2699.