The school curriculum in the United States is drastically shifting infavor of common core subjects such as science and math. While these and other subjects are important for our children’s futures, there is one subject that constantly seems to be getting cut out of school programs across the country, the arts – whether it is different programs or forms of art involving painting, dance, music, crafts, and the like.
While some may see art education in some cases as a luxury or even in some cases unimportant to the development of children, it is anything but. It is through creative activities that children begin and continue to develop themselves, and it is through such activities that they develop lifelong skills and necessities. More importantly, it is through artistic creativity that kids can give a voice to that what matters or is most important to them.
There are many forms of art that can be used by the children of today to address social issues that they see around them, some of which they themselves are affected by. One example that can be provided took place at the Houston-based organization that I am the Executive Director of, Vox Culture. Our focused cause for 2014 is domestic violence, for which we have partnered with Tahirih Justice Center to both address, and also be our beneficiary.
For one of our educational events, where we had speakers representing various cultural communities come in to speak about how their communities view and are affected by domestic violence, one of our artist collaborators approached us about bringing in the kids from Break Free Community Center. The center passionately provides the youth of Houston with an opportunity to learn and express themselves through various art forms, in a safe, structured and inspiring environment. The artist shared with us that a lot of the kids learning to dance at the center had known someone (family or otherwise) who had been a victim of domestic violence and wanted to participate in our event to share their message of empowerment. Given that the events name was Breaking Silence, the group chose to go with break dancing with the art form. The day of the event, the performing children, ranging from ages 8-12, put on a show stopping dance and left the entire crowd impressed and inspired.
While it may have been just a dance in order to raise awareness and show creative expression in addressing domestic violence, a more powerful, unspoken message was shared that day. When it comes to issues like domestic violence, it is not just an issue that adults understand. Children are more than aware as to how such issues (and other issues as well) affect those around them, especially those who they love, and in some cases know exactly how it looks like. Finally, children too, from all different backgrounds, can be the voice of our community, no matter how young they are.
Viktor Kopic is the Director of Vox Culture Houston. Vox Culture is an Arts and Advocacy network that connects the Houston community to social causes in creative ways.