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Cultivating the complete mind

Cultivating the complete mind

Arts education has been severely compromised to the detriment of creative thinking and the strength of our current and future workforce. 

It’s no secret that budget cuts have decimated arts education programs in public schools– and in low-income schools in particular. But it turns out that arts education isn’t a luxury after all… it’s an absolute necessity for the success of our next generation. 

“Arts education is not about learning to play an instrument, it’s about teaching visual literacy, creative thinking and problem-solving skills—all of which are imperative to preparing students to compete in a global marketplace,” says Pat Wayne, deputy director of Arts Orange County, Orange County’s nonprofit arts council. 

Strong evidence confirms that the process of learning and practicing art develops essential right-brain abilities, such as complex problem-solving, pattern recognition and understanding symbolism and abstraction. 

A study conducted by the National Assembly of State Art Agencies found that students with four years of arts coursework outperformed peers who had one semester or fewer by 58 points on the verbal portion of the SAT, and 38 points on the math section. 

To ensure that every student gets a comprehensive, standards-based education, Arts Orange County supports community alliances that advocate for and facilitate arts education across school districts by focusing on quality, equity and access. They work closely with the Orange County Department of Education’s Arts Advantage Initiative, which offers teacher professional development and standards-based curriculum.  Arts Advantage has been adopted in 16 local K-12 districts over the past five years and continually tracks progress with measurable markers and evaluations. 

And Arts Orange County has partnered for many years with Boeing– a staunch corporate advocate for arts education based on its experience with how much better new hires have excelled in the workplace when they have strong academic qualifications paired with arts training.

“Boeing found that new employees who had meaningful arts training more easily adapted to their requirement for creativity, teamwork and problem-solving”, Wayne says. 

Now there is a movement to change STEM to STEAM, meaning that science, technology, engineering, art and math should together be the optimal focus for successful students and a competitive workforce. 

To find out more about how the arts are improving our students, our community and our future, visit artsoc.org or ConnectOC.org.


Shelley Hoss is president of the Orange County Community Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected].

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