AEMS Talking Points

Every School. Every Grade. Every Student.

Transforming education for ALL Maryland public school students

The Arts: Essential for a Well Rounded Education

Every child has the right to a dynamic, creative education

“Engaging with the arts is essential to the human experience. Almost as soon as motor skills are developed, children communicate through artistic expression. The arts challenge us with different points of view, and compel us to empathize with others.”

–The Brookings Institute

The arts are uniquely effective at building the capacity for imagination, creativity and innovation in students. When fully present and integrated across the curriculum, they facilitate interdisciplinary teaching and learning and heighten the creative culture of the school community.

Social and Emotional Learning

Learning through the visual, performing and media arts transcends race, religion, gender, and culture. It is fundamental to the emotional, social and intellectual development of children. Through the arts, students understand the perspectives of those around them. This promotes empathy and cultural understanding, which are essential for success in life and work.

“The importance of social emotional skills such as empathy, cultural understanding and adaptability will rise by 26% in the U.S. by 2030.” 

–World Economic Forum

Creative and Economic Capital: Creativity is Currency

Arts education, employment and contributions to a healthy economy

“The arts and creativity build strong communities and enticing cities. And are powerful engines for state employment and revenue generation, with 961.6 Million generated by the non-profit arts and culture sector, and 25,248 full time jobs were created in 2018.” 

–Maryland Citizens for the Arts

A particularly significant role of the arts is in supporting the continuum of imagination, creativity and innovation (ICI). From the academic, government, corporate, science and technology sectors we hear increasing concerns about the capacity for innovation in the American workforce and leadership.

Other nations are emulating the American drive for innovation while our education policy in many cases is stifling the imagination and children’s sense of themselves as creative agents.

The Arts: Not Optional

Future workplace skills require learning in creative subjects

The future is here. Artificial Intelligence is growing and will eliminate many jobs. The world is our workplace, highly competitive and rapidly changing.

To compete and succeed, ALL students MUST have the capacity to think abstractly and critically and to solve complex problems with persistence. To create, innovate, improvise and work effectively in teams. To be culturally competent and empathetic – all essential skills and processes learned most effectively through creative subjects.

From 2020 – 2030 top skills demanded from CEOs: 1.Complex problem solving 2.Critical Thinking 3.Creativity 4.Collaboration 6.Emotional Intelligence [newly added] 10.Cognitive Flexibility [newly added]

-World Economic Forum

“Creativity is now the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing even integrity and global thinking.”

— IBM study of more than 1500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries

“When today’s fifth graders enter the workforce in 2030, technology will have transformed the workplace in ways humankind has never has never experienced before.”

–Klaus Schawb, World Economic Forum Founder & President

“The game is changing . . . It isn’t just about math and science any more (although those are surely important disciplines). It’s about creativity, imagination and, above all, innovation.”

-Business Week (2006)

Equitable Access: Not Negotiable

Those who have the least gain the most

In impoverished neighborhoods, the arts are a powerful motivator for students to attend school, engage in learning, graduate from high school and aspire to go to college and beyond.

And yet, the schools in Maryland’s most distressed areas are “arts deserts.” Arts-rich schools are mainly located in economically advantaged counties.


Compilations of more than 60 peer-reviewed independent studies published in recent years by the Arts Education Partnership have begun to provide impressive research-based data.

Arts rich schools and high arts participation narrows the achievement gap, especially among low socioeconomic status (SES) students. Arts education has been proven to INCREASE:

  • school attendance rates and student engagement
  • literacy and language development
  • mathematics achievement
  • overall academic achievement
  • graduation rates
  • honor society memberships
  • college enrollment and achievement
  • aspirations for advanced studies and professional careers
  • engagement in volunteerism

“For at-risk/at-promise students, intensive arts experiences correlate to academic achievement and civic engagement levels close to or exceeding those of the general population AND much higher than their at-risk/at-promise peers with low levels of arts exposure.”

-Catterall, Dumais, Hampden-Thompson (2012)

“As a matter of social justice, we must be concerned when students are denied access to a high-quality education—one that includes learning in and through the arts—simply because of where they live or go to school.”

– Sandra S. Ruppert, Director of Arts Education Partnership (AEP)

AEMS believes that Maryland’s education policy should ensure that all Maryland public school students have access to quality arts education.

The Brain on Art

Through brain imaging and other tools of neuroscience, researchers are exploring the connection between art and the brain: * The whole brain becomes intensely engaged when creating art; * Builds cognitive skills * Enables the prefrontal cortex to focus on thinking and planning, learning and memory. * Artistic expression reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. * Artistic activities and experiences cultivate empathy and support social/emotional learning.

– The International Arts and Mind Lab

Arts education has also been shown to develop the following habits of mind:

  • Self-awareness and confidence – the arts provide an environment where students can explore, create and express their identity.
  • Cross-cultural understanding – increased social tolerance and respect for diverse perspectives.
  • Persistence – sustaining concentration and attention to a task.
  • Resilience – managing challenges, overcoming frustration, and failure.
  • Achievement motivation – the desire to succeed in fulfilling goals and expectations.
  • Engagement – absorption in the content, processes, and pleasures of learning.

From an education in and through the arts, students also improve in the following cognitive capacities:

  • Problem solving and reasoning
  • Collaboration and action
  • Symbolic understanding
  • Imagination
  • Creativity
  • Conditional reasoning
  • Critical thinking

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