How Does Art Build Community?

by: Angie McCarter

Anne Rhodes, a community liaison for the “Extension Reconsidered” initiative asks, “Why are the arts possibly the best tool for the community-building work we want to do in the 21st century? Every problem we face will be easier to solve if we have inter-connected, engaged, resilient, creative communities. Cultivating civic engagement, a sense of agency and legitimacy of leadership, empowerment, and skills for communicating and working together are important tools for building our communities. Why not use the arts to meet these goals? The arts give people a creative voice, a path to leadership, a way to express shared values, and to create a shared experience working together toward meaningful outcomes. There is consensus among social scientists, historians, educators, and activists that it is exactly these kinds of experiences that helps to build community. “ She goes on to talk about how everyone in a community benefits from the arts because art can “connect people to each other, strengthen and heal communities, restore a sense of belonging, and empower people to take on the issues they care about.”

This really got me thinking about the power of art to help build community. I believe that we as art educators have the power to make a remarkable impact on our students, and thus affect our communities in profound ways. What if we as educators could impart on
students and their families the power that art has to heal, inspire, and change a community in a positive way? Let’s make this a topic of discussion in our classrooms! Let’s talk about how “creativity and beauty are powerful agents for change.” Let’s ask our students how art can give everyone a voice, honor different perspectives, and can be used to solve community problems.

I challenge you to bring this up for discussion in your classroom and give students the opportunity to express their thoughts on this topic through their art. This year’s theme for the Youth Art Month flag contest in TN is “Building Community through Art.” Please support Youth Art Month and TAEA by participating in this year’s flag contest with your students. You can find more information about Youth Art Month on our website under Advocacy

Youth Art Month is a nationally observed celebration of the visual arts and is observed each year during the month of March. Its goal is to emphasize the value of visual art education for all children and to encourage support for quality school art programs.

Flag entries will be divided into four different grade levels: Primary, Intermediate, Middle, and High. Each teacher can submit up to 10 of your best entries (please no more than 10). A winner will be chosen for each level. The winning student flag designers and their teachers will receive prizes courtesy of Sargent Art. From these four winners, an overall Grand Prize winner will be selected. The Grand Prize winner’s design will be made into the Tennessee YAM flag, which will represent Tennessee at the National Art Education Conference this year. In addition, the Grand Prize winner will win $1000 cash and the winning student’s teacher will win $1500 worth of art supplies from Sargent Art. Entry forms are available on the TAEA website, along with directions on how to submit your entries. More information can also be found on the TN Youth Art Month Facebook page. The deadline to submit is February 9th.