The STA Arts Credit
By Will Nash '20
Since its inception, St. Albans has prided itself on being an institution that produces well-rounded men. St. Albans, at its core, is a place where boys can try new things and be exposed to different ideas, concepts, and disciplines that they would otherwise not experience. Students are urged to get outside of their comfort zones, and in so doing, broaden their minds. After these four transformative years, the boy who entered St. Albans emerges a well-rounded man. This approach to education is applied to all three central disciplines at St. Albans: academics, athletics, and the arts. Academic credits are a requisite to graduate from most every school in the nation. Athletics are also required at almost every school in the form of physical education or health classes. St. Albans, however, is unique in its requirement that all students earn at least one art credit.
At a time when many public high schools are shrinking or shutting down art programs because of lack of sufficient funding, fine arts classes seem to survive as a part of the curriculum only at private schools and universities. That St. Albans still has art courses, let alone requires them, is an anomaly in this day and age; an anomaly, however, that we should cherish. Although there are multitudes of studies alleging a correlation between fine arts education and higher standardized test scores, I believe that a fine arts education should be championed because it is a part of any well-rounded education. Art gives us a way to express ourselves, whether it be through playing an instrument in the St. Albans Orchestra, or singing in the Chorale, or writing for Gyre, or painting in the studio. Art can unlock the creativity inside all of us. This same creativity is responsible for some of the greatest achievements in science and technology. Art or Ensemble periods during the day give St. Albans students a respite from the business of their academic lives, while also allowing them to express themselves in artistic endeavors. This creativity of expression they can then take to other subjects, such as math or science, and use to achieve in those fields. In taking classes in fulfillment of the art credit, a student may discover a passion for an art that he never would have discovered otherwise. This passion could develop into a lifelong hobby or profession. High school is a time of discovery, of finding new passions, and the art credit enables students to branch out and expand their interests. If exposure to the arts does not lead to a passion, it may lead to a profound respect or appreciation for the arts that will stick with the St. Albans graduate for the rest of his life.
To conclude, I believe that the mandatory art credit is a great way to unleash creativity and expand one’s passion or appreciation for the arts. St. Albans produces men of the future, and can anyone imagine a future without art?
Power, Knowledge, and Connection Within the Arts
By Prasanna Patel ‘19
“The arts credit is so annoying.” If you relate to this statement, chances are my eight-year-old self would have agreed with you. I remember spinning begrudgingly on my dance teacher’s cold basement floor, while fighting the numbing pain of by bells digging into my ankles as my feet reluctantly slapped the floorboards. Fatigue overwhelmed by mind as the dizzying yellow lights from the ceiling danced in my eyes. I wanted so badly to collapse onto the floor and yank the bells off my feet, but my teacher’s persistent encouragement, or should I say yelling, instilled enough fear in me that I knew I had to keep spinning; I could not give up. Finally, after evaluating my options, I accepted the challenge. My flailing arms became sharp and directed, my eyes and zeroed in on one single point at the end of every spin, thus replacing the dizziness with focus, and my feet pounded against the stone floor with strength. Every footstep, every arm gesture, every movement was deliberate and had a purpose, yet my mind was free of thought. It turned off, allowing my body to be unfettered from the fear that consumed me, and replace it with courage.
That was my earliest memory of feeling powerful. I was unstoppable and strong, but at the same time I was at ease and had no limitations in my mind. This is why I love dancing; it allows me to escape the fear that cripples my mind every day, and lets me explore my strength and confidence in a way that no other activity can. Yes, dancing, alike most art forms, is challenging and frustrating, but that feeling of fearlessness and ease you get when you finally master a routine is priceless. Similarly, most performance arts have the power to boost the confidence of students and give them a sense of self-expression.
Not only is art used for self-reflection, it also gives you a better understanding of others and what they believe in. With the migration of people comes the globalization of art and culture, people learn about others through their music, food, dances, and visual aesthetics. The arts are used to bridge gaps between countries, cities, and people in ways that words, numbers, and lab experiments cannot. Before language was created, societies used art to express their beliefs, and to this day, art is still used to preserve culture under the forces of assimilation. Therefore, in order to interact with today’s diverse population, one needs to be open to understanding the various cultural expressions that exist within their larger community. Even if you do not understand a culture’s language, or agree with its religious beliefs, you can still appreciate and learn from a culture through its various art forms.
However, you might be thinking, “Understanding people and making connections is not going to give me an A in a class or help me make money in the future.” That is a fair point, however, even doctors, lawyers, engineers, and entrepreneurs need some artistic education in order to stand out in their field. The fine motor skills that are gained from taking visual arts courses are necessary for surgeons and dentists to have, because they allow the doctor to have a precise and steady hand. For entrepreneurs and lawyers, thinking outside the box is crucial in creating a successful business or making a challenging argument. In the academic world, an arts education can allow a student to exercise their mind in a unique way, which makes for a more creative and well-rounded mindset in the classroom. These examples show the benefits of an artistic background in exceling in traditionally non-artistic careers.
My eight-year-old self dreaded dance class every week, and I wanted so badly to give up on it because I feared the challenges that preceded my moment of confidence. However, as a young girl I did not realize that the pain, fatigue, intimidation I felt by my dance teacher, and the multiple failures I endured were all worth it, because today I can say that I feel powerful.