Kids and the Arts
Investing in the future through creative endeavors
Art is crucial for children!” says Denise Ahlstrom, owner of Karma and Coconuts in Cape Coral, which offers a variety of classes and workshops for children and adults. She explains that art and other creative endeavors not only stimulate the right side of the brain, but also build confidence. Providing children with creative outlets such as drawing, painting, music, dance, pottery and theater is an investment in their future success. Studies have shown that creativity helps children understand how to solve complex problems and works to cultivate innovative minds. Southwest Florida has a number of facilities that offer a variety of arts-based programs for area children. The Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers has a full schedule of children’s classes and workshops in drawing, dance and music. Assistant director Brandi Couse argues that exposure to the arts at a young age has long-lasting benefits. “Among the many benefits that the arts afford kids are positive modes of expression, increased confidence, greater problem-solving skills, improved cognitive function and academic performance,” she says. “Additionally, the arts are a great way for children to develop perseverance, focus and collaboration,” says Heather Roper, youth education director at the Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs, which provides classes and lessons in music, theater and art for children. Erin Peter, the children’s summer camp director at BIG ARTS on Sanibel, says that even children who don’t want a career in the arts can still have fun while flexing their creative muscles. “Art is important in any field,” adds Peter. While some children will study the arts on a serious level and continue with careers in music, writing or art, others will still benefit from having a creative background. Consider inventors such as Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, who spent a good year and a half taking creative classes. Albert Einstein played the violin throughout his life. The National Endowment for the Arts reports that a whopping 93 percent of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates completed some kind of musical training in their lives, compared with only 34 percent of the rest of the population. When it comes to the visual arts, dance, acting and creative writing, STEM students also have a higher-thanaverage involvement. The STEM occupations are growing at 17 percent, in comparison with other occupations that are growing an average of 9.8 percent. The creative arts are beneficial to a good chunk of the work force.
Adding creativity to a child’s life can come from taking organized classes, but it can also come from unexpected and everyday places. Ahlstrom made it a point to find creative outlets everywhere with her own two children as they were growing up. “Whether it was making a mosaic out of garden stones, or a wreath out of tree bark, or clay from soil, it was important to me to teach my children that art and the potential for art is everywhere and does not need to cost anything,” she explains. The list goes on. “Children can enjoy a theater show, in person or on TV. They can dance in the living room, sing along with the radio, make a homemade instrument (such as dry beans in an empty water bottle) or act out a scene from a favorite children’s story. Even drawing, coloring and painting—wherever it is allowed,” says Couse, whose own children like to draw faces on the product pictures in the grocery ads found in the newspaper, strive to replicate famous artwork and scour the Internet for other creative ideas. “Visiting museums, attending artfocused events and participating in the arts together are also great ways to get children more involved in the arts,” says Roper, who explains that through the arts, children learn about themselves, others and the world around them. Participating in the arts creates critical thinkers, innovators and problem solvers, no matter what field a child chooses to pursue. Plus, the arts offer an outlet for both children and adults to find more enjoyment in the world.
Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.
From left: Karma and Coconuts in Cape Coral, BIG ARTS on Sanibel Island, and the Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers all offer children in Lee County a multitude of opportunities to immerse themselves in the visual and performing arts.
The Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs offers a full schedule of classes for children ages 18 months and up.