Our country has suffered a severe setback in civility. As a result, it created a social, cultural, and political divide. It feels as if a breach has occurred, equaling the distance from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In a similar vein, it seems as if Lady Liberty’s torch dimmed and the crack within the Liberty Bell lengthened. Because of this, it feels necessary that we rebuild our former civil society. Where did we go astray? As a visual arts teacher, I would propose that the shrinking arts offerings are partially to blame. The arts could be a model for reclaiming mutual respect and rebuilding a civil society.

I’ve noticed a distinct decline in arts classes at preschool through college levels. Much of this has been in the past one to two decades. Testing mania as well as economic factors are some of the reasons. However, my purpose is not to delve into these factors. Instead, I’d like to focus upon possible solutions the arts could provide.

How can we effectively stem and bridge this growing divide within our country’s populace? Let’s consider research findings. The focus was upon arts infused schools. I’d like to concentrate upon three positive qualities of note. One was an increase of creative problem solving abilities. A second was improving critical thinking skills. The third one was a decrease in disciplinary violations. The arts obviously empowered these students and enhanced the school atmosphere. These changes would certainly be crucial in a building a civil society. A peaceable and creative society is upgraded by the arts. Perhaps a hearty embrace of the arts could offer a much needed oasis of help for our country as well.

Here I’ve included three examples. Each demonstrates the transformational power of the arts.

Arts – Music and Dance – Cooperation

The first is a flash mob performing a selection from the Sound of Music. They are located in Antwerp, Belgium in Central Station. Notice the spectators spontaneously clapping. I am struck by how contagious their smiles become! The jolt of joy of this perhaps unexpected performance is palpable! Dance demonstrates that it is possible for groups to work together without stepping on others’ toes!

Arts – Listen to the Lyrics – Joining

My second example is Pink Floyd’s song, “Us and Them”. This piece has always acknowledged an inclusion of the other. Because of joining us to them with “and”, it embraces unity. We would do well in today’s world to move beyond divisive “us OR them” feelings. Holding the feeling of “us AND them” in our hearts is healthier. Additionally, the lyrics infer the futility of battle. However, music shows us it is okay if we don’t all sing the same note. When each group sings their own notes, it is possible for us and them to find harmony by working together!

Visual Arts – Unity Versus Separation

Lastly, here is a beautifully intriguing, twenty-six foot tall metal sculpture. It is located in the republic of Georgia. This monumental display so aptly depicts the uniqueness of each person. Amazingly, it also allows a merging of the two. This is exactly how I perceive the operation of a healthy democracy in action via the arts. We should be able to maintain individuality (without harming the liberties of others). In addition, we should be willing to engage as a congenial whole. Visual arts are quite adept at demonstrating complex concepts such as this.

In conclusion, the arts are one of the most effective ways to achieve group cooperation and cohesiveness while still maintaining the spirit of the individual. It is my hope to create a series on the topic of rebuilding a civil society. With the arts, we can all benefit!

Published by Linda M. Wolfe

Midwestern mystic with varying amounts of mother, teacher, artist, seeker

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