Arts Education is Essential to Cultivating the Creative Economy
Creative Many is headquartered in TechTown, Detroit’s self-styled “business innovation hub.” Our office in Michigan’s capital city is co-located with The Runway, an incubator helping startup fashion designers produce and market their collections. Both TechTown and The Runway are emblematic of the exploding creative sector in Michigan.
According to the Creative State Michigan 2014: Creative Industries Report, in FY 2011, the creative sector accounted for over $3.6 billion in wages to 74,049 employees in more than 9,700 businesses in the Great Lakes State. This accounts for nearly 3 percent of Michigan’s employment totals, more than 3 percent of total wages and 4.6 percent of total state businesses in leading core industries such as advertising, publishing and printing industry, design, film/media and broadcasting and architecture. Creative entrepreneurs are essential to the future of Michigan’s economy, but what do they have to do with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)? More than you’d think.
Let’s start with arts education. Exposure to high quality arts education isn’t just a feel good issue for those of us that appreciate the arts and culture. It’s been demonstrated time and time again that incorporating arts education into student learning helps students become more creative thinkers and improves their performance in other subject areas. As a result, keeping the arts in the reauthorization of the ESEA is not only essential to arts education for its own sake, but also to our ability to equip students with the skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly complex world.
Jobs in the creative and design industries are opening doors to economic growth all across our state and across the country. In fact, the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA) report compiled by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that in 2012, arts and cultural production contributed more than $698 billion to the U.S. economy, or 4.32 percent to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, far more than other sectors such as construction, transportation and warehousing. Continued growth in these sectors is reliant upon our ability to develop, retain and attract creative talent in our communities and in our country. That process starts in our schools.
Not only the creative industries, but all industries continue to increase the value they place on creativity in an increasingly competitive and ever-evolving business climate.
A creative mind helps individuals develop problem-solving skills, fuels innovation and product development, encourages outside the box thinking, and allows for quick adaptation. According to a report conducted by the Conference Board and Americans for the Arts, creativity has risen among the top applied skills sought by today’s business leaders. In short, creativity has become a business necessity in the 21st century.
Given the centrality of creativity in today’s economy, we must ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to promote the development of creative minds among the next generation of American students—the employees and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that we are not. Not by a long shot.
In Michigan, a statewide 2012 Arts Education Census concluded that a staggering 108,000 students were attending school every day without access to arts education and 12% of high schools did not meet the state graduation requirement of one credit in the arts. These shortcomings should come as no surprise when you consider the fact that, according to the Arts Education Partnership’s 2015 State of the States Arts Education State Policy Summary, Michigan was not among the 45 states that require schools to provide arts instruction in one or more disciplines at the elementary school and middle school levels. If our students are going to compete on a global stage, we are going to need to do better.
The ESEA is a massive piece of legislation that touches on every aspect of education policy in the United States. It would be easy for arts education to get lost in the shuffle, but we cannot afford that. Keeping the arts and arts education in the ESEA is critically important to the quality of our children’s education and will have a tremendous impact on our economic future.