Why the Arts Matter

Nowadays, it is too easy to discount the importance of the arts in the lives of individuals, communities, and the world at large. The arts are not a luxury suitable for only a select few. The arts belong to everyone, and influence nearly every aspect of the world around us, even if it isn’t always obvious.

The arts matter because they help us see the world from different perspectives. They give us empathy and help us understand people, places, periods of history, and issues with which we may otherwise be unfamiliar. They comfort us in grief and energize us in celebration. They are important because they can act as a catalyst for change…they can start a revolution! The arts ignite something in our brains that I can’t explain, but I know it’s essential for life.

Jennie Terman, National Endowment for the Arts

The effects of engagement with the arts is well studied. Research has shown these benefits:

  • The arts improve academic achievement – enhancing test scores, attitudes, social skills, critical and creative thinking.
  • People who experience sustained involvement in the arts are overwhelmingly more likely as adults to found successful companies, publish important articles, and patent new inventions.
  • Arts participation – in school or in the workplace – strengthens creativity, the fuel that drives innovation.
  • U.S. employers rate creativity and innovation among the top skills that they seek and that will only increase in importance in the coming years, ranking it among the top challenges facing CEOs.
  • The arts make you smarter.

The arts pay off in other ways: being creative breeds happiness.  At the same time, the arts open doors to new ways of seeing the world around us. In his oft-quoted Commencement address at Stanford University in 2005, Apple’s Steve Jobs told the story of how a course in calligraphy taken in college directly informed his sensibilities 10 years later when designing the first Macintosh computer. Though as a college student he never could have guessed the impact that one class would have on his—indeed, the world’s—future, that encounter with a new way of seeing everyday objects made all the difference.

What kind of difference will you make?