November and December have to be the most creative months of the year. The arts come alive through so many mediums during the holidays: concerts, recitals, craft fairs, baking and decorating.
Author Kristin Rapp reminds us that "arts are what bring life to life," in her book, "Keeping the Arts Alive: Creating and Sustaining Youth Programs that Matter." Rapp says creativity can be shared in so many ways: through fashion, hairstyles, cooking, baking, gardening, interior design, photography, writing, painting, making movies, sculpting clay, crafting jewelry, acting, dancing and knitting. Many of these activities can naturally be channeled toward gift-making and entertaining during the holidays.
The arts need to be cultivated and appreciated all year long. Research shows that young people who participate in some kind of artistic activity for at least three hours a week for a whole year are:
Four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.
Three times more likely to be elected to class office.
Three times more likely to win an award for school attendance.
Two times more likely to perform community service.
In other words, participating in the arts helps young people feel motivated and engaged in their schools and communities.
Tips to support the arts
Rapp, founder and executive director of ArtPeace Inc., in Rochester, N.Y., has many ideas about how everyone can advocate for the arts. Her tips include:
Speak up at community meetings about successful arts-related endeavors.
Encourage funding for arts as part of core curriculum.
Volunteer to teach your special skills at a school, after-school program or community class.
Support a young person's interest in arts by going to his or her events.
Encourage kids to be active creators of media, rather than passive consumers.
Cheer on talented local artists and share their work with others.
When January rolls around, the holiday decorations will be stowed away and the cookies will be eaten, but the arts will still be abundant in so many things we take for granted - including restaurant menus, interesting websites and public billboards. Keep Rapp's words in mind: "The arts elevate learning and life."
(Ellen M. Bjelland is an extension agent in family and consumer science with the Ward County office of the North Dakota State University Extension Service.)