Arts in Education in Steel City


Image by Miles Gehm*

The title of a recent article by Kellie B. Gormly in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is also one of our guiding principles here at Lincoln Center Institute: “The arts ignite children’s creativity, innovation, and imagination.” Eric Liu and I argue in Imagination First that the order of these concepts is: imagination → creativity → innovation. In this sequence, each prompts the other. But no matter what order they’re listed in, it’s always encouraging to see them appear in an educational context. Gormly’s piece is a concise and accessible look at the role of the arts in the development of young people.

Sarah Tambucci, director of the Arts Education Collaborative, points out in the article that, in addition to making them more culturally sophisticated, “Arts also teach children that problems can have more than one solution … and questions can have more than one answer. The arts help our children … celebrate multiple perspectives.” This view is in sync with two of LCI’s Capacities for Imaginative Learning: Living with Ambiguity and Exhibiting Empathy. In our world—an increasingly complex world—situations may be successfully resolved in different ways and at different speeds, and individuals are bound to approach things differently, based on their unique backgrounds and experiences. This is mirrored  in LCI’s guided explorations of artworks, which enable children, who are often forced to think in terms of “right” and “wrong,” to understand that the truth—or should I say “truths”—may lie beyond those limitations.

Gormly acknowledges that, while many struggling American school districts are shrinking arts education programs, this trend, fortunately, has not reached Western Pennsylvania. Kudos to schools in that region for recognizing the value of the arts!

*There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image.