I have called Minden my home since 1971. I’ve spent the majority of my life trying to encourage, expose, teach and promote the arts. With all the studies that show the value of an arts curriculum and how the arts play an important role in brain development of a child, I am constantly amazed how that message isn’t getting to the right people. Or that it has been discounted, down-played and out-right ignored. I’ve even come to wonder if there’s a conspiracy to dumb down our children especially when you consider that we seem to be putting all of our emphasis on teaching children how to pass a test. Aren’t we simply teaching them ‘what’ to think and not ‘how’ to think? With all the studies that show the role the arts play in critical thinking and problem solving, and with no arts curriculum in our schools, there’s no wonder our children’s scores are lacking. And I’m not surprised that our drop -out percentages are as high as they are.
Many of you are parents and you have to be seeing the same thing I am. You have to be wondering who is making the rules and who is turning our schools into prisons for our children. Instead of unlocking their minds, we’re limiting their brain development and we’re limiting their future prospects. I remember a learning environment when I was young that included music, art and theatre. I remember a school environment that made me want to go to school every day because I had something to look forward to and I felt challenged. Today’s children are stressed and the challenges they face appear to be the aggressive nature of another child.
As the founder of the first afterschool enrichment center in Minden, I know first-hand what the arts can do to not only improve a child’s self image but also what it can do to spark a child’s imagination, create a desire for learning and open their mind to unlimited possibilities. Right now, we are simply teaching them how to answer questions. Without a stimulating environment, it’s only a matter of time before more of our children will become statistics.
While considering the future of our country and the many challenges our children and grandchildren will face, they’re going to need more creative thinkers. We may not be able to change the school system but we can change the opportunities we provide to children through community-related activities.
And while we may not be able to solve the current financial challenges that seem to keep the arts out of school, there is another alternative. Community partnerships with the arts. We do have a local non- profit that has been filling the void for nearly two decades. Cultural Crossroads has already been providing what little art enrichment there is in the schools aside from the Gifted and Talented Program. Their annual Spring Arts Festival has provided opportunities for real art experiences free of charge to area children. This all volunteer organization led by a group of dedicated advocates for the arts and children have brought in nearly a million dollars to our parish in the past 15 years in the form of grants and foundation dollars. And they would do more but they are limited, too, limited in their funds and in the community support they receive. They need more volunteers. They need more corporate dollars so they can provide matching money for more grant opportunities. And they need more people to support their efforts.
As the chairman of the board of Cultural Crossroads, I do have an agenda. …to provide more opportunities for children to unlock their minds while increasing their desire for learning through the arts. I know it works. I am living proof.
If you would like to learn more about Cultural Crossroads and their programs visit their website at www.artsinminden. com. And if you would like to become a community partner, call me at 318-393-5991.
Passionate about the arts,
This letter ran in the Minden Press Herald in April of this year. We thought it was important enough to circulate on our blog.