By Kristi Jones
The arts have always been in my life, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to say that. However, I didn’t have super artistic parents; in fact, art wasn’t really even a hobby for my parents. My dad is a pilot and was always more math and science-minded, and my mom had a varied career history, including accounting, marketing and flight attendant, but the arts were never involved in their professional lives, and besides my mom playing the piano now and then, not in their personal lives either. However, they always encouraged both my involvement in and appreciation of the arts. I started taking dance classes when I was three, and my parents started taking me to the theatre productions when I was around six years old. There were museums, piano lessons and choir concerts throughout my life. I also had the typical arts classes in school, stayed involved in choir, theatre and dance through my teenage years, went on to major in theatre in college and moved on to have a career in the non-profit arts world. Why? I was encouraged to participate in the arts, where I ended up finding my niche and passion, and I was given the support and tools I needed to do just that.
Now in my thirties with my own child, I appreciate what my parents and teachers did for me more than I ever have, because I realize the true costs of affording me those artistic experiences. Those many years of dance shoes and costumes were not cheap at all. Figuring out ways to get me to and from afternoon piano lessons were logistically draining. The art, choir and theatre fees kept adding up each year. Finding the right instructors took time and research (Yelp didn’t exist back then). Attending numerous recitals, productions, and concerts I’m sure got pretty old after a while, even though they would never tell me that. There were so many costs to ensure I had a well-rounded, complete education that included the arts; those artistic experiences truly shaped me into the person I am today, both professionally and personally. I am forever grateful I was given the wonderful gift of artistic engagement, and every child should be allowed to interact with the arts in the same way. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for every child, but both national organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts, Americans for the Arts and Young Audiences, and local organizations, just like Think 360 Arts for Learning, are bringing enriching arts experiences to as many students as possible, through funding and programs; just like my artistic journey, there are costs involved.
The National Endowment for the Art’s future, and that of education in general, seems uncertain right now, and Think 360 Arts is one of the only organizations in Colorado bringing dynamic and customizable arts programs to the community with professional teaching artists. These organizations need our voices and support now more than ever to ensure students receive the complete education they deserve: an education which integrates the arts, which instill essential 21st century skills such as problem solving, innovation, collaboration and creativity.
The arts completely changed my life and forged a path for me. It didn’t come for free or without hard work and determination, but it was worth so much more than any of the costs. Don’t future generations deserve that too? Let’s help give them what they deserve – a complete education, which includes the arts.