COLUMN: There isn’t a better teacher than the arts

‘It shows kids that we value those who practise the arts, who act, dance, draw, and cook.’

I have a long history of delving into the arts, which one would think is obvious of reporters but isn’t necessarily so.

I cherish happy memories of belting out tunes at old folks’ homes as a youngster, and learning the lines to the chorus of The Mikado. And I have not-so-happy memories of not being able to dance like the other girls in ballet, but enjoying hopping along to the rhythm and stretching my legs out on the bars all the same.

I wrote my first poem as soon as I could read, inspired by the images of tundra in the pages of a National Geographic. As a child I plunked on the piano dutifully with a straight back and tiptoed into halls, soaked in sweat, for Conservatory exams. Later on as a rebellious teen, I sulked in my room and did my best to impersonate John Lennon and Eric Clapton, teaching myself the guitar.

I twirled baton, practised drawing, took hip hop dance lessons (tragically), and read my weight in books each year. I once failed an art class and deemed it a triumph that the instructor didn’t “get” me.

But it was my high school’s drama room where I really embraced the arts as a passion, instead of a hobby. This is where it all came together for me. The motion of actors on a stage. The lighting. The artistry of stage design. The words brought to life from the page. The costumes and makeup and hushed moments behind the curtains. The last-minute scripts handed to us. The visiting adjudicators watching fine-tuned performances. The dust falling under spotlights, and the exhilaration of a final show.

And oh, the nerves.

Theatre improv was my favourite — writing on the fly, seeing the instant reactions from my cohorts and the audience. You knew instantly if you hit the right note of funny, of sadness, of anger. There isn’t a better teacher than that.

None of these things made me an “artist.” Not one of them got me scholarships or a starring role on television. Other than as reporter, I’ve never been published.

But they each enriched me in ways that cannot be replaced, either singly or combined. They are part of my being, my body, and my story. When I stretch my tired, aching limbs out, I do it in the five positions of a ballerina — a clumsy one in an itchy leotard, but a ballerina none the less. When I sit at a meeting as a reporter, and sketch out something I see, I can do it quickly with a trained hand and eye.

When I sing to myself in the shower, it’s in tune. And when I get out to just enjoy the arts within the community, it is with immense appreciation for every little thing that had to come together perfectly for the show. And when my children were small, their lives were filled with art lessons infused into everything from nature walks to the books we read.

So, to think that students in Chilliwack could soon get an integrated arts high school, fills me with joy for the community as a whole. It shows kids that we value those who practise the arts, who act, dance, draw, and cook. And even if their education doesn’t draw them to their future careers, it will arm them with skills that inform an entire lifetime.

The public consultations for the proposed integrated arts school will be held on April 16 for the north side of the city (Alumni Hall in the NLC, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.), and April 24 for the south side (Sardis secondary, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.). The board of education will make their decision on April 30.

RELATED STORY: Public consultation kicks off for new Chilliwack arts school


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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