Art education needs more attention

By Ariel Owens

What would education be without the arts? Nothing.

Visual and performing arts have the power to enhance student success and can unite a community like no other force, and NIU needs more leaders like graduate student Danielle Dobies — who leads Fertile Ground — to take initiative in creating public art projects for the community to get involved with.

From 4:30 to 6 p.m. today in Reavis Hall, Room 103, the Women’s Studies Department will host a reception for the unveiling of Fertile Ground. Wondering what Fertile Ground is? It’s the name given to a public art project where community members helped to create a three-piece mosaic.

“The project started May 2013. We worked all throughout the summer,” said Rebekah Kohli, program coordinator for the Women’s and LGBT Resource centers. “Over 500 labor hours were put in by people from 6 to 70 years old.”

How amazing that art could bring together people in such different stages of life. Dobies said the diversity went beyond age.

“I have always looked for people from colleges outside of art and around DeKalb who are interested in creating art,” Dobies said. “Getting the community involved with something they can have on their wall and tell their story in is something I enjoy.”

It’s admirable that Dobies goes out of her way to seek passion for the arts in places she may not expect. I’m sure she has inspired countless people while leading the workshops that took place to create the mosaics.

Importance of art education

The importance of academics like math and science are constantly preached, but who’s really praising the importance of the arts? Public art projects like Dobies’ are an excellent way to bridge that gap.

“In some ancient philosophers’ minds, they would argue that the arts are more important than math or science,” said Richard Holly, dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. “It’s really only been recently that the arts have come under fire.”

According to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Eric Jensen, the author of “Arts with the Brain in Mind,” “mentions that music education is required of all students in other nations [than the United States], including Japan, Hungary and the Netherlands, and is quick to

point out that students in those three countries boast some of the highest mathematics and science test scores in the world.”

“Arts make us think, feel and create a sense of community,” Holly said. “It brings us closer to other humans.”

Art is thought-provoking and it invites audiences to experience their own unique truths.