The arts impact the lives of students, educators, and communities. This idea reflects the founding principle of the Arts for Life initiative. Created by the Utah Partnership for Arts Education, Arts for Life shares stories of how the arts personally affect people. By highlighting these personal stories, the Arts for Life initiative reveals the rich and strong significance of arts education in helping people deal with life’s struggles, giving them hope, and providing a creative outlet.
Rhonda Rhodes, a past president of UMEA, explained that creating resources for principals was the original idea uniting the four founding organizations of Arts for Life. “We immediately started telling stories around the table. We started telling stories about students who had talked to us about being saved by the arts,” she said. The sharing of these stories inspired the art educators around the table to think a little bigger.
Anna Davis, the president of the Utah Art Educators Association, said, “We love kids and we’re worried about our kids.” She discussed her experience working with kids dealing with depression and anxiety, and those she knows who have died from suicide. Arts classes draw many kids to school:. “Coming to the art room is their safe place,” she said. “We want to collect these stories. Stories have power.” Davis pointed out that maybe “we can push back on this wave of depression. We can help save the kids. We aren’t therapists. We’re art educators. But, we can help make a difference for our kids.”
These shared values inspired the presidents of four professional arts education organizations to form the Utah Partnership for Arts Education. This partnership (UPAE) represents a unified voice for the advancement of arts education. The four partnering organizations are the Utah Art Education Association (UAEA), the Utah Music Educators Association (UMEA), the Utah Dance Education Organization (UDEO) and the Utah Advisory Council of Theatre Teachers (UACTT). Backbone support is provided by the BYU ARTS Partnership. Together, the presidents of these organizations defined the two-fold mission of the Utah Partnership for Arts Education: to represent a collective voice of advocacy for arts education and to launch the Arts for Life initiative. During the past year, the four presidents, together with representatives from BYU, presented Arts for Life at five professional conferences.
According to Lori Higbee, the Utah Dance Education Organization president, the initiative illuminates the power of the arts. “What resonates a lot to me for this particular initiative is that we, as teachers, get to see the magic that happens in our classrooms. We get those comments at the end of the day or the end of the semester about how we really inspired our students by using art,” she said. “The power of these stories is what is going to make a difference in keeping the arts alive. We know, as teachers of the arts, that art is healing.”
Andra Thorne, a past president of the Utah Advisory Council of Theatre Teachers, explained her perspective on the potential impact of the Arts for Life Initiative: “I have dedicated my entire life to stories. Stories change you. Stories happen every day in our classrooms, so why aren’t we sharing them? Theatre kids will share anything. If the kids are already sharing it, let’s put it in the public eye.”
To read stories and find out more about Arts for Life, visit www.artsforlifeutah.com.
Share Your Stories:
- Follow and tag @artsforlifeutah and use #shareyourartsstory or #artsforlifeutah when sharing your arts experiences.
- Share your story. Write 50-500 words and submit your story with a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Display Arts for Life posters, found on the Arts for Life website, in classrooms, playbills, and concert programs.
Laura Giles is a lover of all things art, a first-grade teacher in Alpine School District, a writer for the Daily Herald newspaper, an Arts Leadership Academy graduate, and has earned the Arts Integration Endorsement from Brigham Young University. She can be reached at LauraCGiles@gmail.com.