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Everyone's a Critic

The Observer's culture blog

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

WHY THE ARTS MATTER, by Suzi Peterson, Ann Arbor Civic Theatre

AACT Junior Theatre players rehearse James and the Giant Peach, July, 2012

The arts, be it visual, music, or theatre, bring enrichment and a sense of joy to the beholder. But what about those who participate in the arts: the photographer, the painter, the musician, the actor? What do they stand to gain? The answer is: a lifetime of accomplishment, self-esteem, creativity and a sense of being.

As a community theatre working with adults of all walks of life and with youth, we see the benefit of the arts every day. Lifelong friendships are made on a regular basis; in fact, a remarkable number of partnerships and marriages have resulted from participation in this art. Folks who had a hard time speaking in front of a crowd, let alone a handful of business associates, find their voice and are in command of the audience; sometimes having a creative outlet like theatre is just what someone needs to escape the intense work of their daily profession. And let’s not forget that some of the world’s classics are set to stage, so our literary education continues!

We have a Junior Theatre program which is for young , aspiring actors in grades 4-12. There are 20-30 kids in each production, working together and offering performances for kids 3 and up.

Early in my tenure at A2CT, I observed auditions for a Junior Theatre production. Two middle school boys came to auditions; half a dozen fellow auditioners whispered to me, “They’re the tough kids. They won’t really ‘get’ acting and they won’t be nice.” Well, the director cast them all and by curtain time, every single one of those kids were genuinely friendly to each other, and worked together to put on a great show. And, the ‘tough’ kids found such a calm, happy side to themselves, giving a wonderful, touching performance!

So often the participants in these productions inspire us to offer more programs and, really, to stop and say Yes! The arts enrich kids’ lives. Kids gain a sense of belonging, of teamwork, of self-esteem and pride. They walk in as shy, quiet, individual kids and leave as confident, expressive, cooperative young actors.

Kids who have had a difficult time reading have a new-found desire to read when they receive their script and realize they need to read it to learn their lines. Cognitive skills, creative skills, problem-solving skills all increase, and any socio-economic boundaries cease to exist.

And certainly all this is true in the other arts. For the past several years, the Ann Arbor Public Schools have offered opportunities for classes of all grades to participate in art shows in their schools and in the district library, displaying the work they do in art classes. The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair offers participation in a Kids Art Fair at the Townie Street Party, allowing kids to display and sell their art work. The sense of pride and accomplishment is palpable; and what better way to learn about art than to make art.

When we purchase a piece of art, or read a book, or see a live theatre production, we feel so many emotions and feel inspired. Imagine how the creator of the work of art is feeling!


Posted by John Hilton at 1:42 p.m. | 0 comments Bookmark and Share


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