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Students grow through art

Op-ed: Students need access to the arts and cultural community to start thinking collaboratively and problem-s

In order for our city's youth to become the next generation of innovators and leaders, we must ensure they have the tools necessary to start thinking collaboratively and solving problems in radical new ways through access to the arts and cultural community.

When students activate their own power in the classroom, they find forward-thinking solutions that will be necessary to drive our work force and economy. Research shows that when students have the arts as a mechanism to learn, they have improved interpersonal interactions, connect with content in a deeper way, and have a healthy way to expend energy and frustration. In other words, the arts help students develop 21st century skills such as cross-cultural understanding, collaboration, critical thinking, tolerance and empathy. These traits are necessary for building a Baltimore City that values humanity, arts and culture for generations to come.

Arts and culture also have an impact on our youth's ability to start and lead social change.

According to the study Third space: When Learning Matters, having strong arts programs and arts focused learning encourages students — especially those in economically disadvantaged communities — to have agency in their learning process. The arts provide safe spaces for students to take risks, explore solutions and ideas (including ideas about themselves and their futures) and help students take responsibility for setting their own goals. This creative capital is necessary for students to challenge themselves and grow into entrepreneurs, inventors, policy makers and game changers in all public and private sectors.

One of the ways my organization, Arts Every Day, advocates for arts-based learning in the classroom is by working with our city's public schools to amplify student voices, encourage youth leadership and connect students to the contemporary arts community. From murals and stained glass memorials to photography and film documentaries, the non-profit Arts Every Day provides essential funding and support to connect Baltimore City Public Schools to Baltimore City arts and culture.

This year, in honor of our 10th anniversary, we are bringing together over 150 artists, youth leaders, educators and adminstrators to envision the next decade of arts and education in Baltimore City. On March 10th and 11th, "Envision. Create. Transform: Baltimore Youth Through the Arts" at the Baltimore Design School will facilitate open conversation and dialogue to collectively advocate for the arts access that our youth deserve.

Baltimore City's youth have tremendous imagination and vision that will take our city to new heights. Despite all of the research showing the benefit of an arts rich education, budget cuts could further reduce access to the arts in Baltimore City Schools. We must remain focused on what our children need to thrive, feel connected, and create their own pathways to understanding.

We know we cannot do this alone. We must continue to work diligently with our city's teachers, artists, administrators, organizations and youth every day. And we call on those who believe our students have a stake in our city's future to join us.

Precious Blake is a development and administrative assistant for Arts Every Day and a Baltimore Corps fellow; her email is

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